Some 15% of U.S. households with school-age children do not have a high-speed internet connection at home, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of 2015 U.S. Census Bureau data. New survey findings from the Center also show that some teens are more likely to face digital hurdles when trying to complete their homework.
This aspect of the digital divide – often referred to as the “homework gap” – can be an academic burden for teens who lack access to digital technologies at home. Black teens, as well as those from lower-income households, are especially likely to face these school-related challenges as a result, according to the new Center survey of 743 U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 conducted March 7–April 10, 2018.
This is even more common among black teens. One-quarter of black teens say they are at least sometimes unable to complete their homework due to a lack of digital access, including 13% who say this happens to them often. Just 4% of white teens and 6% of Hispanic teens say this often happens to them. (There were not enough Asian respondents in this survey sample to be broken out into a separate analysis.)
Lastly, 35% of teens say they often or sometimes have to do their homework on their cellphone. Although it is not uncommon for young people in all circumstances to complete assignments in this way, it is especially prevalent among lower-income teens. Indeed, 45% of teens who live in households earning less than $30,000 a year say they at least sometimes rely on their cellphone to finish their homework.
Broader impact on net neutrality rules, and high speed access for all:
These findings reflect a broader discussion about the digital divide’s impact on America’s youth. Numerous policymakers and advocates have expressed concern that students with less access to certain technologies may fall behind their more digitally connected peers. There is some evidence that teens who have access to a home computer are more likely to graduate from high school when compared with those who don’t.