Low Income and the Gap in Technology

How low-income households and communities are having trouble accessing one of the most important resources for education

Sarah Tilatitsky

Image of a person surrounded by technology

According to the Pew Research Center, 18% of surveyed teachers said that their students have sufficient access to digital tools at home. The disparity of access of technology is greater in low-income and rural areas. In low-income areas, teachers said that their students were the least likely to have access to technology both in school at home, while rural areas are the least likely to have access to technology at home. Many teachers agree that technology is affecting the education gap between low and high income students.

Access to technology is very important, giving children access to online newspapers, textbooks, and general information that can come in so many formats (text and video) to help them learn in almost whichever way they want. Emails and online homework assignments are impossible to access without wifi. Technology is no longer a luxury, but it is priced as a luxury. Many low-income households cannot afford a device or wifi. Low-income schools lack the money and resources to buy decent computers and decent internet service to service the computers (Cest.org).

Graph of teachers evaluating student's internet access This is a figure that depicts the main sources of internet access by income and status

According to EdSurge, even with internet access, 25% of American households rely on internet access on mobile devices, and half of them say that the internet connection is too slow to be useful. Mobile devices are hard to use when researching homework or doing online assignments, as there are usually many tabs open when doing an essay. Also, many websites do not have or are not suitable for a mobile format.

% of teachers that let students use devices in class % of teachers that uses the internet to give and recieve assignments % of teachers that evaluates the school as digitally accessible % of teachers that evauates the students' homes as digitally accessible
73 76 54 18

In New York City, the NYPL (New York Public Library) tries to counteract the lack of wifi in safe places by creating the Library Hotspot Program. The program gives children access to wifi for free during the school year. Unfortunately, the modems are required to be given back a week after the school year is over. This means that children will not have access to wifi at home at any time over the summer. Comcast decided to produce a program called the Broadband Opportunity Program, where 10mbps of internet service costs $9.95, without taxes and fees. 10mbps is enough for one-person use, but it is barely enough for a household of multiple children.

Company Cost Speed
NYPL Free (need a library card and to be 18+) 4G, ~9.3 mbps
Comcast $9.95+ taxes&fees 10mbps