Mapping the distance learning gap in CA

We are pleased to announce the release of a new 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. This follows the release of previous report that focused on families in Los Angeles County. Access the full report here and the interactive map here (the report is also available in e-book format for easier reading).

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.

The report was authored by Associate Professor Hernan Galperin, with research support by doctoral students Kurt Wyatt and Thai Le.