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Experimental Evidence on the Effects of Home Computers on Academic Achievement among Schoolchildren

July 2013

Robert W. Fairlie, Jonathon Robinson


Modern education relies increasingly on computers and the internet, yet many students do not have a computer at home. The author tested home computers effects through a random field experiment providing students families with computers. Although the use of computers and the internet increases substantially in the sample group, the authors found no meaningful increase in educational performance or outcomes, including in behavioral outcomes.

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Policy Implications

Although it seems troubling that a significant minority of students don’t have computers at home, there is no evidence that this has a negative effect on their education. Many policy makers have proposed interventions to close the so called “digital divide”. We should be realistic about these interventions chances of closing the gap in student performance. Resources would probably be better spent on other interventions to improve student performance, that have a better chance of succeeding than simply providing a student with technology.

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