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Mapping the distance learning gap in CA

April 30, 2020

Project: Connected Communities and Inclusive Growth (CCIG)

Download File: "Mapping the distance learning gap in CA"

This Connected Communities and Inclusive Growth (CCIG) report that examines the ability of K-12 students in California to engage in distance learning based on the availability of an internet-connected computer at home.

  Among the key report findings are:  

  • One in four K-12 households in California do not have a desktop or laptop computer and a high-speed Internet connection. This represents about 870,000 families whose child or children are likely to fall behind in educational attainment during the COVID-19 crisis. If households with mobile broadband service are included, the share of households lacking resources for distance learning falls to 17%, which represents about 610,000 families.
  • Only about half of the K-12 families in the bottom 20% of the income distribution have a desktop or laptop computer and subscribe to high-speed internet. This compares to over 90% of families in the top income quintile.
  • Students eligible for free/reduced price meals are significantly less likely to have access to distance learning resources at home. While the gap is larger for high-speed internet and PC availability (about 26 p.p.), it is only slightly smaller when families with mobile broadband are included (about 24 p.p.)
  • Households in coastal metro areas are  generally better equipped than those in the rural communities of the Central Valley, Southeast  and Northern California. However, large concentrations of under-resourced households exist within metro areas. As an example, the availability of an internet-enabled PC  at home for students in South LA is only slightly above that for  students in Tulare County,  which has the lowest availability rate in the state.
  • After controlling for income, the chances that an urban household has a PC and high-speed Internet are almost twice as large as those for a rural household. When the indicator includes wireless broadband, the relative odds for urban households are still about 75% higher. These results reflect the fact that rural students, regardless of income, are more likely to attend under-resourced schools where technology initiatives are less likely to be adopted.
  • Black and Hispanic students are at greater risk of falling behind due to lack of distance learning resources at home. The chances that a Hispanic student lives in a household with a PC and high-speed internet are only about half relative to those for a non-Hispanic student, regardless of income and location. Similarly, the chances for a Black student are about 70% relative to those of non-Black students.