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Social distancing and school closures: documenting disparity in internet access among school children

Social distancing directives across the United States have led to school closures. Some districts are moving towards online instruction, but this requires internet access at home. We examine the factors that determine whether school children have access to the internet at home. We document that poor and non-white children still have lower access to the internet. Moreover, in areas where poor and non-white children have relatively lower test scores, such children are more likely to not have access to the internet. However, there is some evidence of positive spillovers from the historic presence of ICT industries in the local area in improving the access of disadvantaged children to the internet. The empirical insights highlight how the digital divide might exacerbate existing educational inequalities in the face of school closures due to social distancing.

Lead investigator:

Ananya Sen


Carnegie Mellon University -H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management

Primary topic:

Schools, universities & training

Secondary topic:

Families & households

Region of data collection:

North America

Country of data collection


Status of data collection


Type of data being collected:

Publicly available

Unit of real-time data collection




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