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The effects of home access to technology on computer skills: Evidence from a field experiment


  • Fairlie, Robert W.


Computer skills are important for educational and labor market success. This paper examines whether disparities in access to home computers are limiting the acquisition of computer skills. To address problems with selection bias, I use data from a randomized field experiment providing free computers for home use to community college students. I find that the treatment group of low-income students receiving free computers has significantly higher levels of computer skills than the control group of low-income students not receiving free computers. The “intent-to-treat” estimates indicate an increase in high-level computer skills of 17% points, and the LATE estimates indicate a range of 19–23% points. The results are robust to estimation strategy, measurement of the dependent variable, and inclusion of different sets of controls. The benefits appear to be the strongest among young, minority, low-income, and female students.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:iepoli:v:24:y:2012:i:3:p:243-253
    DOI: 10.1016/j.infoecopol.2012.06.001

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Robert W. Fairlie & Peter Riley Bahr, 2018. "The Effects of Computers and Acquired Skills on Earnings, Employment and College Enrollment: Evidence from a Fields Experiment and California UI Earnings Records," CESifo Working Paper Series 6860, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. George Bulman & Robert W. Fairlie, 2015. "Technology and Education: Computers, Software, and the Internet," CESifo Working Paper Series 5570, CESifo Group Munich.
    3. Bet, German & Cristia, Julián P. & Ibarrarán, Pablo, 2014. "The Effects of Shared School Technology Access on Students Digital Skills in Peru," IZA Discussion Papers 7954, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. repec:bla:devpol:v:35:y:2017:i:3:p:315-336 is not listed on IDEAS

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    Computers; Digital divide; Computer skills;


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