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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert W. Fairlie & Rebecca A. London, 2013. "The Effects of Home Computers on Educational Outcomes: Evidence from a Field Experiment with Community College Students," CESifo Working Paper Series 4523, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_4523
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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. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. Oliver Falck & Constantin Mang & Ludger Wößmann, 2015. "Virtually No Effect? Different Uses of Classroom Computers and their Effect on Student Achievement," CESifo Working Paper Series 5266, CESifo Group Munich.
    9. 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.
    10. George Bulman & Robert W. Fairlie, 2015. "Technology and Education: Computers, Software, and the Internet," CESifo Working Paper Series 5570, CESifo Group Munich.
    11. Fairlie, Robert W., 2012. "Academic achievement, technology and race: Experimental evidence," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 663-679.
    12. 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.
    13. repec:eee:ecoedu:v:63:y:2018:i:c:p:51-63 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    technology; computers; community college; education;

    JEL classification:

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

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