Academic Achievement, Technology and Race: Evidence from a Field Experiment

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IZA Research Seminar

Place: Schaumburg-Lippe-Str. 9, 53113 Bonn

Date: 21.07.2009, 12:15 - 13:30


Presentation by 

Robert W. Fairlie (University of California, Santa Cruz)


Although a large literature explores the achievement gap between minority and non-minority students, very little is known about whether disparities in access to technology are partly responsible. Data from the first-ever field experiment involving the random provision of free computers to students are used to explore whether home computers are beneficial to minority students. Financial aid students at a large community college were randomly selected to receive free computers and were followed for two years. I find that minority students receiving free computers achieved better educational outcomes than the control group that did not receive free computers. In contrast to the finding of large, positive effects of home computers on the educational outcomes of minority students, no evidence of effects for non-minority students are found. Minority students may have benefitted more from receiving free computers because of fewer alternatives for accessing home computers due to lower rates of computer ownership among family, friends, and relatives. Implications for the achievement gap and policy are discussed.

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