Are Computers Good for Children? The Effects of Home Computers on Educational Outcomes
Although computers are universal in the classroom, nearly twenty million children in the United States do not have computers in their homes. Surprisingly, only a few previous studies explore the role of home computers in the educational process. Home computers might be very useful for completing school assignments, but they might also represent a distraction for teenagers. We use several identification strategies and panel data from the two main U.S. datasets that include recent information on computer ownership among children -- the 2000-2003 CPS Computer and Internet Use Supplements (CIUS) matched to the CPS Basic Monthly Files and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 -- to explore the causal relationship between computer ownership and high school graduation and other educational outcomes. Teenagers who have access to home computers are 6 to 8 percentage points more likely to graduate from high school than teenagers who do not have home computers after controlling for individual, parental, and family characteristics. We generally find evidence of positive relationships between home computers and educational outcomes using several identification strategies, including controlling for typically unobservable home environment and extracurricular activities in the NLSY97, fixed effects models, instrumental variables, and including future computer ownership and falsification tests. Home computers may increase high school graduation by reducing non-productive activities, such as truancy and crime, among children in addition to making it easier to complete school assignments.
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