Dec 1, 2018

The Homework Divide: 12 million schoolchildren lack internet

Data: Pew Research Center; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios
Data: Pew Research Center; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

About 7 in 10 teachers assign homework that requires broadband access, but nearly 1 in 3 households don't have it.

Why it matters: The "homework gap" affects 12 million U.S. school-age kids, according to the Senate Joint Economic Committee. Students with less access to digital tools are at risk of falling behind their peers who are more connected.

By the numbers:

  • 15% of households with school-age children don't have a high-speed connection at home, per Pew Research Center. That number is higher among low-income households, one-third of which lack broadband access.
  • 35% of teens say they at least sometimes rely on their cellphone to finish their homework, according to Pew. That number creeps up to 45% for teens living in households that earn less than $30,000 a year.
  • 12% of teens say they at least sometimes use public WiFi to complete homework assignments because they don't have a connection at home.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel calls the homework gap the "cruelest part of the digital divide."

"It's the most important issue of digital equality we face. It's not about indulgent surfing online, it's about teaching students how to use resources online to supplement how they find information and understand the world. We're going to harm their ability to perform jobs, the majority of which now require digital skills."
ā€” FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel

Possible solutions: Rosenworcel has proposed using excess funds from spectrum auctions to fund initiatives to narrow the gap, like providing library loans of WiFi hot spots.

  • Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) have proposed a bill that would equip school buses with WiFi.
Go deeper