COVID-19 and the Digital Divide in Virtual Learning

In collaboration with Ong & Associates, this report by CNK examines the digital divide in virtual learning during the latter part of the 2019‒20 academic year when the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to end face-to-face teaching. The analysis uses data from the U.S. Census Household Pulse Survey (HPS) covering the 12-week period from April 23 to July 2 to assess the pattern and trajectory of availability to computers and Internet, focusing on racial, income, and other systematic disparities. The digital divide predates the current public-health crisis, but the findings show that the pandemic exacerbated the digital divide among minority and low-income households. Major findings include:

  1. Limited computer and Internet service available for children’s educational purposes increased.
  2. All racial groups (White, Black, Asian, and Hispanic) experienced a significant increase in limited availability, however, these increases were largest for Hispanics and Blacks.
  3. Low-income households were most impacted by the unavailability, while households at the other end of the economic ladder experienced minor growth.
  4. The lack of access to technology was tied to the parents’ educational attainment.
  5. Younger households faced the most technological barriers, and all age groups experienced an increase over time.

The observed disparities in limited technological resources for virtual learning probably is not just a current and temporary phenomenon. Unchecked, the digital inequality threatens to widen the racial and income gap in educational achievement and contributes to a reproduction of intergenerational inequality.

Access the full report here >>> COVID-19 and the Digital Divide in Virtual Learning


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