A New Study Led by a Carnegie Mellon University Professor Used National Data to Measure How Many Children Have Internet Access at Home and What Factors Contribute to the Long-Existing Digital Divide. the Findings, Said the Lead Researcher Ananya Sen, Are Especially Potent as Most K-12 School Districts Have Moved to Online Instruction amid the Coronavirus Pandemic [Derived Headline]

Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, May 18, 2020 | Go to article overview

A New Study Led by a Carnegie Mellon University Professor Used National Data to Measure How Many Children Have Internet Access at Home and What Factors Contribute to the Long-Existing Digital Divide. the Findings, Said the Lead Researcher Ananya Sen, Are Especially Potent as Most K-12 School Districts Have Moved to Online Instruction amid the Coronavirus Pandemic [Derived Headline]


A new study led by a Carnegie Mellon University professor used national data to measure how many children have internet access at home and what factors contribute to the long-existing digital divide. The findings, said the lead researcher Ananya Sen, are especially potent as most K-12 school districts have moved to online instruction amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The study found that low-income and non-white children have less accessibility to the internet and suggests that children in these groups will be especially harmed by social distancing requirements.

"Since we're in this pandemic and so many things are changing, we wanted to present facts related to access to the internet for school children," said Sen, an assistant professor of information systems and economics at CMU's Heinz College. "As digital scholars we think the digital divide is still a very real thing. We wanted to see what it looks like and how that might exacerbate existing educational inequality."

The study, "Social Distancing and School Closures: Documenting Disparity in Internet Access among School Children," was conducted by researchers at CMU and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The research used data from the 2018 American Community Survey, which is administered by the Census Bureau.

The survey examines about 3 million households, recording the level of internet access -- high-speed, dial-up or satellite -- for students in first through 12th grades. The survey also records whether the households receive food assistance through SNAP benefits, and the student's age, race, disability status and type of housing.

The researchers concluded that both poverty and race affect children's access to the internet. Children in families that receive food stamps are 16% less likely to have high-speed internet and 10% more likely to have no access at all.

African American children are 8% less likely to have access to high-speed internet and 4% more likely to have no access at all. Decreased accessibility was a trend for all non-white children.

Sen said the findings are consistent even in large population centers where internet access is generally better, and in areas where statistics indicate higher incomes. Children of color are consistently less likely to have high-speed internet access, across geographic locations.

The idea that internet accessibility is an issue for low-income families is nothing new. …

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A New Study Led by a Carnegie Mellon University Professor Used National Data to Measure How Many Children Have Internet Access at Home and What Factors Contribute to the Long-Existing Digital Divide. the Findings, Said the Lead Researcher Ananya Sen, Are Especially Potent as Most K-12 School Districts Have Moved to Online Instruction amid the Coronavirus Pandemic [Derived Headline]
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