IdEP Seminar "Broadband Internet and Education Success: Evidence from a Natural Experiment", Sarah Eichmeyer

Institute of Economics

Date: 03.04.2023 / 12:30 - 13:30

Room 354 (main building), Università della Svizzera italiana, Campus Ovest Lugano

What is the impact of home-based broadband internet access on the success of students from low-income households in school? We evaluate the largest private broadband subsidy program for low-income households in the US--a program with more than two million enrollees--to answer this question. The exact timing of the introduction of the program, sharp eligibility thresholds, and geographic variation in availability of the sponsoring broadband provider's services, all provide rich sources of quasi-exogenous variation in households' propensities to adopt the subsidy. We use this variation in a synthetic differences-in-differences approach to estimate the reduced form effects of the broadband subsidy program on student performance in standardized tests, as well as instrumental variable estimates of broadband adoption itself. Availability of the subsidy has a small positive effect on reading scores and a null effect on math scores. Scaling estimates by broadband adoption rates among low-income households suggests modest positive treatment-on-the-treated effects. We do not detect economically meaningful positive impacts of access to the broadband subsidy program during the COVID-19 pandemic, either--most likely due school districts' endogenous choice of more remote/online in favor of in-person learning modes in areas with access to the subsidy.

Sarah Eichmeyer
Assistant Professor of Economics at Bocconi Universit