What recent studies show us about the homework gap

Taylor Gadsden

Aug 23, 2020 — 3 min read

Have you heard about the homework gap? Find out how students are learning in today’s digital world and how those without access are working harder to compete.

A home internet connection and access to a smartphone, tablet or laptop computer is one of the first things you’ll need when going back to school. 67% of elementary and high school students moved to attending classes virtually as of September 2020, according to Burbio.

However, there’s a population of students without consistent access to vital technology. They’re getting lost in what’s being called the “homework gap.” Let’s take a look at the students most affected by tech integration into school curricula and what’s being done to close this chasm.

Who is affected by the homework gap?

In a 2020 study conducted by Pew Research Center, kids ages 6 to 17 were surveyed to find out whether or not recent surges in technological adoption have helped close the homework gap. Unfortunately, findings show that certain demographics are more likely to have trouble completing their homework due to limited digital access.

  • Black and Hispanic teens from lower-income households are most likely to face school-related problems due to limited internet access
  • One out of four black teens say they are unable to complete homework because they don’t have reliable equipment or an internet connection
  • 24% of teens with a family income of less than $30,000 per year do not have the necessary equipment or internet connection to complete assignments

The study found that one in 10 students unable to access the necessary equipment or internet connection to complete assignments must look outside the home. This additional barrier to attend online classes poses unnecessary health threats to students if they’re unable to complete work from home. 

  • 21% of black teens report needing to use public Wi-Fi on occasion to make up for the necessary resources not available at home
  • 35% of teens, especially those in lower-income households, said they often complete homework assignments on cellphones

These findings come as a stark contrast to the results reported by non-minority households, especially those who earn over $75,000 per year. Only 4% of teens in this demographic do not have access to a home computer. 

See below for a complete breakdown of the digital divide and how teens are compensating for a lack of access.

How are devices being used to do schoolwork?

According to a study by ACT Research & Center for Equity in Learning, students with access to multiple devices typically use them for school-related activities — checking grades, doing homework and establishing communication with instructors during off-hours. Take a look at how access to more than one device affects a student’s digital participation in school activities.

As student access to devices goes down, so does digital participation in all activities except “reading” and “school-related apps.” For these activities, access to only one device was more than sufficient when compared to having access to two or more. 

Is anyone working to close the gap?

Internet service providers signed the Keep Americans Connected pledge with initiatives directed towards low-income users and students without internet connections during the COVID-19 pandemic. AT&T, for example, waived data overage charges for subscribers through April 2022. Xfinity has increased their standard monthly data limits for 1 to 1.2 TB. 

A wide variety of providers are also offering discounted internet plans for first-time subscribers. With Connect2Compete, Cox is offering households with students K-12 internet service for only $9.95/mo.* Spectrum Internet™ Assist through Charter Spectrum is available for student households participating in public assistance programs like the Community Eligibility Provision can get speeds up 30 Mbps with no data limits. 

Looking to finally connect for this back-to-school season? Learn more about how providers are helping students connect with discounted internet plans and tech equipment.

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Taylor Gadsden

Written by:

Taylor Gadsden

Writer, Broadband Content

Taylor is a veteran member of the Allconnect content team and has spearheaded a number of projects, including a data piece on the top fiber cities in the U.S. and a troubleshooting guide on how to connect your p… Read more

Trey Paul

Edited by:

Trey Paul

Editor, Broadband Content

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