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The Effects of Home Computers on Educational Outcomes: Evidence from a Field Experiment with Community College Students

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  • Robert W. Fairlie
  • Rebecca A. London

Abstract

There is no clear theoretical prediction regarding whether home computers are an important input in the educational production function. To investigate the hypothesis that access to a home computer affects educational outcomes, we conduct the first-ever field experiment involving the provision of free computers to students for home use. Financial aid students attending a large community college in Northern California were randomly selected to receive free computers and were followed for two years. Although estimates for a few measures are imprecise and cannot rule out zero effects, we find some evidence that the treatment group achieved better educational outcomes than the control group. The estimated effects, however, are not large. We also provide some evidence that students initially living farther from campus benefit more from the free computers than students living closer to campus. Home computers appear to improve students’ computer skills and may increase the use of computers at non-traditional times. The estimated effects of home computers on educational outcomes from the experiment are smaller than the positive estimates reported in previous studies. Using matched CPS data, we find estimates of educational effects that are considerably larger than the experimental estimates.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 4523.

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Date of creation: 2013
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_4523

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Keywords: technology; computers; community college; education;

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References

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  1. Austan Goolsbee & Jonathan Guryan, 2002. "The Impact of Internet Subsidies in Public Schools," NBER Working Papers 9090, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Thomas Fuchs & Ludger Wößmann, 2005. "Computers and Student Learning:Bivariate and Multivariate Evidence on the Availability and Use of Computers at Home and at School," Ifo Working Paper Series Ifo Working Paper No. 8, Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich.
  3. Fairlie, Robert W., 2005. "The effects of home computers on school enrollment," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 24(5), pages 533-547, October.
  4. Goldfarb, Avi & Prince, Jeff, 2008. "Internet adoption and usage patterns are different: Implications for the digital divide," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 2-15, March.
  5. Kane, Thomas J & Rouse, Cecilia Elena, 1995. "Labor-Market Returns to Two- and Four-Year College," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 600-614, June.
  6. Ofer Malamud & Cristian Pop-Eleches, 2010. "Home Computer Use and the Development of Human Capital," NBER Working Papers 15814, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Stephen Machin & Sandra McNally & Olmo Silva, 2007. "New Technology in Schools: Is There a Payoff?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, Royal Economic Society, vol. 117(522), pages 1145-1167, 07.
  8. Hiroshi Ono & Madeline Zavodny, 2002. "Race, Internet usage, and E-commerce," Working Paper, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta 2002-1, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
  9. Eric A. Hanushek & John F. Kain & Steven G. Rivkin, 1998. "Teachers, Schools, and Academic Achievement," NBER Working Papers 6691, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. John Schmitt & Jonathan Wadsworth, 2004. "Is there an impact of household computer ownership on children's educational attainment in Britain?," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19978, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  11. Jeffrey R. Kling & Jeffrey B. Liebman & Lawrence F. Katz, 2005. "Experimental Analysis of Neighborhood Effects," NBER Working Papers 11577, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Lisa Barrow & Lisa Markman & Cecilia Elena Rouse, 2009. "Technology's Edge: The Educational Benefits of Computer-Aided Instruction," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 52-74, February.
  13. Thomas J. Kane & Cecilia Elena Rouse, 1999. "The Community College: Educating Students at the Margin between College and Work," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(1), pages 63-84, Winter.
  14. Prince, Jeffrey T., 2009. "How do households choose quality and time to replacement for a rapidly improving durable good?," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 302-311, March.
  15. Robert W. Fairlie & Daniel O. Beltran & Kuntal K. Das, 2010. "HOME COMPUTERS AND EDUCATIONAL OUTCOMES: EVIDENCE FROM THE NLSY97 and CPS-super-," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 48(3), pages 771-792, 07.
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Cited by:
  1. Fairlie, Robert W. & Robinson, Jonathan, 2013. "Experimental Evidence on the Effects of Home Computers on Academic Achievement among Schoolchildren," Santa Cruz Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt5759k24s, Department of Economics, UC Santa Cruz.
  2. Fairlie, Robert W., 2012. "Academic achievement, technology and race: Experimental evidence," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 663-679.
  3. Robert W. Fairlie & Samantha H. Grunberg, 2014. "Access to Technology and the Transfer Function of Community Colleges: Evidence from a Field Experiment," CESifo Working Paper Series 4942, CESifo Group Munich.
  4. Fairlie, Robert W., 2012. "The effects of home access to technology on computer skills: Evidence from a field experiment," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 243-253.

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