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The Effect of Computer Use on Child Outcomes

Listed author(s):
  • Ofer Malamud
  • Cristian Pop-Eleches

This paper examines the impact of having access to a home computer on child and adolescent outcomes. To avoid the bias due to non-random access to home computers, we exploit a unique government program which provided vouchers towards the purchase of a personal computer for low-income children enrolled in Romanian public schools. Since the fixed number of vouchers were allocated based on a simple ranking of family income, this program affords a stark regression discontinuity which allows comparisons across students very similar in family income and other respects, but who experienced markedly different access to a computer at home. In 2007, we conducted a household survey of children who participated in the program in 2005. Using these data, we show that children who received a voucher were 50 percent more likely to own a computer. Next, we show that receipt of a voucher had a large impact on time spent in front of the computer and decreased the amount of time spent watching TV and doing homework. Children in households that won a voucher also report having lower school grades and lower educational aspirations. There is also suggestive evidence that winning a voucher is associated with negative behavior outcomes. Nevertheless, we find that having a stay- at-home mom and the presence of rules regarding computer use do mitigate some of the negative effects of winning a computer voucher, indicating that parental monitoring and supervision may be important mediating factors.

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Paper provided by Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago in its series Working Papers with number 0812.

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Date of creation: May 2008
Handle: RePEc:har:wpaper:0812
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