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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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  • Fairlie, Robert

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Fairlie, Robert, 2014. "The Effects of Home Computers on Educational Outcomes: Evidence from a Field Experiment with Community College Students," Santa Cruz Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt3sm3c0wp, Department of Economics, UC Santa Cruz.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdl:ucscec:qt3sm3c0wp
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    Cited by:

    1. Julian Cristia & Pablo Ibarrarán & Santiago Cueto & Ana Santiago & Eugenio Severín, 2017. "Technology and Child Development: Evidence from the One Laptop per Child Program," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 295-320, July.
    2. Robert W. Fairlie & Samantha H. Grunberg, 2014. "Access To Technology And The Transfer Function Of Community Colleges: Evidence From A Field Experiment," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 52(3), pages 1040-1059, July.
    3. Benjamin Faber & Rosa Sanchis-Guarner & Felix Weinhardt, 2015. "ICT and Education: Evidence from Student Home Addresses," SERC Discussion Papers 0186, Spatial Economics Research Centre, LSE.
    4. Oliver Falck & Constantin Mang & Ludger Woessmann, 2018. "Virtually No Effect? Different Uses of Classroom Computers and their Effect on Student Achievement," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 80(1), pages 1-38, February.
    5. Laura Pagani & Gianluca Argentin & Marco Gui & Luca Stanca, 2015. "The Impact of Digital Skills on Educational Outcomes: Evidence from Performance Tests," Working Papers 304, University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Economics, revised Jul 2015.
    6. Peters, Jörg & Langbein, Jörg & Roberts, Gareth, 2016. "Policy evaluation, randomized controlled trials, and external validity—A systematic review," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 147(C), pages 51-54.
    7. Fairlie, Robert W. & Bahr, Peter Riley, 2018. "The effects of computers and acquired skills on earnings, employment and college enrollment: Evidence from a field experiment and California UI earnings records," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 51-63.
    8. Yanguas, Maria Lucia, 2020. "Technology and educational choices: Evidence from a one-laptop-per-child program," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 76(C).
    9. Bulman, George & Fairlie, Robert W, 2016. "Technology and Education: Computers, Software, and the Internet," Santa Cruz Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt0rb5x6bf, Department of Economics, UC Santa Cruz.
    10. 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.
    11. George Bulman & Robert W. Fairlie, 2015. "Technology and Education: Computers, Software, and the Internet," CESifo Working Paper Series 5570, CESifo.
    12. Fairlie, Robert W & Bahr, Peter, 2018. "The Effects of Computers and Acquired Skills on Earnings, Employment and College Enrollment: Evidence from a Fields Experiment and California UI Earnings Records," Santa Cruz Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt7f86913h, Department of Economics, UC Santa Cruz.
    13. Fairlie, Robert W., 2012. "Academic achievement, technology and race: Experimental evidence," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 663-679.
    14. Robert W. Fairlie & Jonathan Robinson, 2013. "Experimental Evidence on the Effects of Home Computers on Academic Achievement among Schoolchildren," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(3), pages 211-240, July.
    15. Bulman, George & Fairlie, Robert W, 2015. "Technology and Education: Computers, Software, and the Internet," Santa Cruz Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt5265z87t, Department of Economics, UC Santa Cruz.
    16. 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.
    17. Nadine Fabritz, 2015. "Investment in ICT: Determinants and Economic Implications," ifo Beiträge zur Wirtschaftsforschung, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, number 60, November.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Education; Social and Behavioral Sciences; computers; technology; education; ICT; community college;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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