Published: September 3, 2008

A Poverty Gap in Access to Computers?

Analysts often quantify the impact of socioeconomic inequalities within education by examining differential patterns of school inputs and outputs (such as per-pupil funding levels and test scores, respectively). However, inequalities can also be reflected in discrepancies related to instructional practice and learning tools, one example being student access to instructional computers. The EPE Research Center explored this issue by calculating the number of instructional computers available for a typical class (about 16 students at the primary level) and compared results for high- and low-poverty schools. In most states, we find little difference in accessibility to computers based on school poverty levels. Nationally high-poverty schools have 4.3 computers per class of 16 students compared with 4.4 in low-poverty schools. Striking differences, however, can be found at both extremes of the access continuum. In the District of Columbia, high-poverty schools have about three fewer computers per class than their more affluent counterparts, while high-poverty schools in South Dakota have five more computers per class.

For this and other state-by-state data on resources for students, search the EPE Research Center's Education Counts database.

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