Opportunity for All? Rutgers University Report Finds Lower-Income Families Under-Connected to Digital Economy
The first-even national report on digital connectivity of low-income parents with school age children finds that 23% of households with annual incomes under $65,000 do not have home Internet, resulting in educational, economic and civic inequities. The report, “Opportunity for All? Technology and Learning in Lower Income Families” by Rutgers University Professor Vikki Katz and Victoria Rideout, confirms many findings from the June 2015 CETF/The Field Poll study. Katz and Rideout underscore:
“The information and resources available on the Internet are now integral features of daily life for most Americans. Searching for employment and filling out job applications; researching the availability of government services; looking up health information, providers, and insurance options; learning how to fix a home appliance; mapping public transportation routes: these tasks are part and parcel of day-to-day life. Being connected to the Internet has become all the more essential as helpful resources for accomplishing these tasks have migrated online.”
Katz and Rideout’s survey of 1,191 parents also revealed:
Most low- and moderate-income families have some form of Internet connection, but many are under-connected, with mobile-only access and inconsistent connectivity.
-Among families who have home Internet access, half (52%) say their access is too slow, one quarter (26%) say too many people share the same computer, and one fifth (20%) say their Internet has been cut off in the last year due to lack of payment.
-Among families with mobile-only access, three in ten (29%) say they have hit the data limits on their plan in the past year, one-quarter (24%) say they have had their phone service cut off in the past year due to lack of payment, and one fifth (21%) say too many people share the same phone for them to be able to get the time on it that they need.
Families headed by Hispanic immigrants are less connected than other low- and moderate-income families.
-One in ten (10%) immigrant Hispanic families have no Internet access at all, compared with 7% of U.S.-born Hispanics, 5% of Whites and 1% of Blacks.
-Four in ten (41%) Hispanic immigrant parents report mobile-only Internet access, compared with 25% of Blacks, 16% of Whites and 17% of U.S.-born Hispanics below the median income.
The main reason some families do not have home computers or Internet access is because they cannot afford it, but discounted Internet programs are reaching very few.
-Four in 10 parents without a home computer (40%) or home Internet access (42%) say the main reason they do not have these items is because they are too expensive.
-Only 6% of those with incomes below 185% of poverty (a common eligibility level for discounted service) say they have ever signed up for low-cost Internet access through programs specifically for lower-income families.
Katz and Rideout offer the following conclusions:
“Our study makes clear that the primary obstacle preventing greater equity in access and digital
participation—at least among families with school-aged children—is financial. … And currently, only a small proportion of families are benefiting from discounted Internet services designed to get low-income families with school-age children online.
The authors further argue, “[W]e believe that the challenges to connectivity that our study has showcased are solvable. Policymakers can address these issues with well-crafted policies that promote the right incentives and supports for families. … [This] will require innovative partnerships and new commitments aligning government, industry, education, and community leaders—including families themselves.”
Click here to read the full report.