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Academic achievement, technology and race: Experimental evidence


  • Fairlie, Robert W.


Although a large literature explores the achievement gap between minority and non-minority students, very little is known about whether disparities in access to technology are partly responsible. Data from the first-ever field experiment involving the random provision of free computers to low-income community college students for home use are used to explore whether home computers are beneficial to minority students. I find that minority students receiving free computers achieved better educational outcomes than the control group that did not receive free computers. Minority students may have benefitted more from receiving free computers because of fewer alternatives for accessing home computers due to lower rates of computer ownership among family, friends, and relatives. Implications for the achievement gap and policy are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Fairlie, Robert W., 2012. "Academic achievement, technology and race: Experimental evidence," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 663-679.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecoedu:v:31:y:2012:i:5:p:663-679 DOI: 10.1016/j.econedurev.2012.04.003

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hiroshi Ono & Madeline Zavodny, 2003. "Race, internet usage, and e-commerce," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer;National Economic Association, vol. 30(3), pages 7-22, December.
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    3. Daniel O. Beltran & Kuntal K. Das & Robert W. Fairlie, 2008. "Home computers and educational outcomes: evidence from the NLSY97 and CPS," International Finance Discussion Papers 958, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
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    5. Robert W. Fairlie & Rebecca A. London, 2012. "The Effects of Home Computers on Educational Outcomes: Evidence from a Field Experiment with Community College Students," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 122(561), pages 727-753, June.
    6. Altonji, Joseph G. & Blank, Rebecca M., 1999. "Race and gender in the labor market," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 48, pages 3143-3259 Elsevier.
    7. Thomas Fuchs & Ludger Wossmann, 2004. "Computers and student learning: bivariate and multivariate evidence on the availability and use of computers at home and at school," Brussels Economic Review, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles, vol. 47(3-4), pages 359-386.
    8. Schmitt, John & Wadsworth, Jonathan, 2006. "Is there an impact of household computer ownership on children's educational attainment in Britain?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 25(6), pages 659-673, December.
    9. Fairlie, Robert W., 2005. "The effects of home computers on school enrollment," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 24(5), pages 533-547, October.
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    11. James E. Prieger, 2003. "The Supply Side of the Digital Divide: Is There Equal Availability in the Broadband Internet Access Market?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 41(2), pages 346-363, April.
    12. Fairlie Robert W, 2004. "Race and the Digital Divide," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 3(1), pages 1-40, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. George Bulman & Robert W. Fairlie, 2015. "Technology and Education: Computers, Software, and the Internet," CESifo Working Paper Series 5570, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. Patterson, Richard W. & Patterson, Robert M., 2017. "Computers and productivity: Evidence from laptop use in the college classroom," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 66-79.

    More about this item


    Race; Technology; Achievement gap; Experiment;

    JEL classification:

    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality


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