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Experimental Evidence on the Effects of Home Computers on Academic Achievement among Schoolchildren

  • Robert W. Fairlie
  • Jonathan Robinson

Computers are an important part of modern education, yet many schoolchildren lack access to a computer at home. We test whether this impedes educational achievement by conducting the largest-ever field experiment that randomly provides free home computers to students. Although computer ownership and use increased substantially, we find no effects on any educational outcomes, including grades, test scores, credits earned, attendance and disciplinary actions. Our estimates are precise enough to rule out even modestly-sized positive or negative impacts. The estimated null effect is consistent with survey evidence showing no change in homework time or other "intermediate" inputs in education.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19060.

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Date of creation: May 2013
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Publication status: published as 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 211-40, July.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19060
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  1. Lisa Barrow & Lisa Markham & Cecilia Elena Rouse, 2007. "Technology’s edge: the educational benefits of computer-aided instruction," Working Paper Series WP-07-17, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  2. Stephen Machin & Sandra McNally & Olmo Silva, 2006. "New technology in schools: is there a payoff?," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 3652, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
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  5. Robert W. Fairlie & Rebecca A. London, 2012. "The Effects of Home Computers on Educational Outcomes: Evidence from a Field Experiment with Community College Students," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 122(561), pages 727-753, 06.
  6. Robert Fairlie & Jonathan Robinson, 2011. "The Effects of Home Computers on Educational Outcomes. Evidence from a Field Experiment with Schoolchildren," Working Papers 11-14, NET Institute, revised Sep 2011.
  7. Joshua Angrist & Victor Lavy, 2002. "New Evidence on Classroom Computers and Pupil Learning," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(482), pages 735-765, October.
  8. John Schmitt & Jonathan Wadsworth, 2004. "Is There an Impact of Household Computer Ownership on Childrens Educational Attainment in Britain?," CEP Discussion Papers dp0625, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  9. Austan Goolsbee & Jonathan Guryan, 2002. "The Impact of Internet Subsidies in Public Schools," NBER Working Papers 9090, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Julian Cristia & Pablo Ibarraran & Santiago Cueto & Ana Santiago & Eugenio Severin, 2012. "Technology and Child Development: Evidence from the One Laptop per Child Program," Research Department Publications 4764, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
  11. Banerjee, Abhijit & Cole, Shawn & Duflo, Esther & Linden, Leigh, 2006. "Remedying Education: Evidence from Two Randomized Experiments in India," CEPR Discussion Papers 5446, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  12. Jeffrey R Kling & Jeffrey B Liebman & Lawrence F Katz, 2007. "Experimental Analysis of Neighborhood Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(1), pages 83-119, 01.
  13. Marianne Bitler & Jonah Gelbach & Hilary Hoynes, 2003. "What Mean Impacts Miss: Distributional Effects of Welfare Reform Experiments," NBER Working Papers 10121, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Ofer Malamud & Cristian Pop-Eleches, 2011. "Home Computer Use and the Development of Human Capital," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 987-1027.
  15. Fairlie, Robert, 2014. "Race and the Digital Divide," Santa Cruz Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt48h8h99w, Department of Economics, UC Santa Cruz.
  16. Goldfarb, Avi & Prince, Jeff, 2008. "Internet adoption and usage patterns are different: Implications for the digital divide," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 2-15, March.
  17. Fiorini, M., 2010. "The effect of home computer use on children's cognitive and non-cognitive skills," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 55-72, February.
  18. Daniel O. Beltran & Kuntal K. Das & Robert W. Fairlie, 2008. "Home computers and educational outcomes: evidence from the NLSY97 and CPS," International Finance Discussion Papers 958, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  19. Paul Carrillo & Mercedes Onofa & Juan Ponce, 2010. "Information Technology and Student Achievement: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment in Ecuador," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 37758, Inter-American Development Bank.
  20. Fairlie, Robert W., 2005. "The effects of home computers on school enrollment," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 24(5), pages 533-547, October.
  21. Jacob L. Vigdor & Helen F. Ladd, 2010. "Scaling the Digital Divide: Home Computer Technology and Student Achievement," NBER Working Papers 16078, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. Barrera-Osorio, Felipe & Linden, Leigh L., 2009. "The use and misuse of computers in education : evidence from a randomized experiment in Colombia," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4836, The World Bank.
  23. Robert W. Fairlie & Daniel O. Beltran & Kuntal K. Das, 2010. "HOME COMPUTERS AND EDUCATIONAL OUTCOMES: EVIDENCE FROM THE NLSY97 and CPS-super-," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 48(3), pages 771-792, 07.
  24. Zavodny, Madeline, 2006. "Does watching television rot your mind? Estimates of the effect on test scores," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 25(5), pages 565-573, October.
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