Before we get to the startling results of a new survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, let’s define “The Homework Gap”.
It’s the huge, gaping difference found between high-speed broadband service in the homes of low-income households and all other American homes. Children in homes without high-speed broadband are falling behind in school because children in homes with broadband because the latter group can use the internet to do their homework while the former group cannot. It’s the gap between the two groups that worries educators.
The only good news from the survey is that “most American homes with school-age children do have broadband access – about 82.5% (about 9 percentage points higher than average for all households).”
Approximately 29 million households in America have school age children, and five million of those families lack high-speed internet service. As you might expect, low-income black and Hispanic homes account for a big slice of that 5 million.
As you might expect, the lower the families income, the lower the rates of home broadband adoption. Nearly one-third (31.4%) of those households with annual incomes below $50,000 lack high-speed home internet connections. Sadly, these families include 40% of America’s school-age children.
Now that you know how the “have nots” live, let’s take a look at the “haves”. Pew reports that “only 8.4% of households with annual incomes over $50,000 lack a broadband internet connection at home.”
Those numbers make the homework gap crystal clear: How can children in financially-struggling homes supposed to compete in school against children from wealthier homes when they are four times more likely to be without broadband.
Here’s a chart that details with all the distressing numbers:
What can be done to solve The Homework Gap? Well, the Federal Communications Commission has been looking into the issue and is expected to attack the problem in the near future.
“In recent years, policymakers and advocates have pushed to make it easier for low-income households with school-age children to have broadband, arguing that low-income students are at a disadvantage without online access in order to do school work these days,” Pew’s John B. Horrigan said. “Later this year, the Federal Communications Commission is expected to begin a rule-making process to overhaul the Lifeline Program, an initiative that subsidizes telephone subscriptions for low-income households, so that it would also cover broadband.”
In other words, it is expected that the FCC will add free or cheap internet to its very successful free government cell phone program (derisively called the Obama Phone program by some detractors).
Lifeline Assistance currently provides free cell phones and free service to more than 12 million needy American adults, and CheapInternet.com looks forward to the day when the nation’s needy children begin benefiting from it, too.
Source: Pew Research