Home computers don’t help kids in school

Giving kids a home computer doesn’t improve their “grades, test scores, credits earned, attendance” or behavior,  according to a new study in the American Economic Journal.

Researchers Robert W. Fairlie and Jonathan Robinson found California students in grades 6 to 10 who didn’t have a computer at home. Half were given one at the start of the school year; the other half got one at the end of the year. The study found “no effects on any educational outcomes.”

. . . Students without a computer at home (the “control group”) reported using a computer (at school, the library, or a friend’s house) about 4.2 hours per week, while students who now had a computer at home (the “treatment group”) used a computer 6.7 hours per week. Of that extra computer time, “Children spend an additional 0.8 hours on schoolwork, 0.8 hours per week on games, and 0.6 hours on social networking.”

It’s possible there’s some long-term effect that the study missed, writes Tim Taylor, who blogs as the Conversable Economist. “Perhaps in the future, computer-linked pedagogy will improve in a way where having a computer at home makes a demonstrable difference to education outcomes.” But, so far, nada.

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  1. Another magic bullet turns out to be a blank.

  2. All the techno-stuff in the world won’t help you if you don’t
    know the basics of reading, writing, and math.

    Sad but true fact.


  3. It’s almost as if, back in the day when buying a computer required a major sacrifice, there was some inherent difference between the families who bought computers and those who did not….

    You know, I bet having a telescope, microscope, or snap circuits set in the house correlates with high achievement,……

    • You could look further back in time to when parents filled their houses with things to read. When all kids arrived at school fed and with appropriate school supplies.

      Even further back, kids arrived lugging their slate and chisel…

      It’s probably rooted in some set of cultural and family values. That success is likely unreplicable because we’d have to say this choice is better than that choice; that’d cause a kerfluffle in some quarters.

    • Mark Roulo says:

      Since I didn’t even see any claim in the article that home computers were even correlated with higher performance, we don’t even need to untangle that.

      • When I was a kid, the standard line was ‘get your kid a computer, so they can succeed in school’ and there was a lot of worry that the kids with computers would outpace those who didn’t have them.

        But again, this was when the sort of people who bought computers were engineering parents, or parents who cared about school.

        The same sort of people who bought encyclopedias back when that was the thing…..