For Immediate Release: February 23, 2023

Contact: Dr. Nathan Burroughs, Senior Methodologist,

Recent efforts to promote greater access to high-speed internet for school-aged children appear to have been successful. According to a recent study by Drs. Rebecca Frausel and Nathan Burroughs, researchers at Public Policy Associates, approximately 2.1 million more children had broadband in their homes in 2021 compared to 2019. Using data from the most recent American Community Survey (ACS), conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, Drs. Frausel and Burroughs found that the percentage of school-aged children in homes without broadband internet had fallen from 22% to 17% in only two years.

“This is a really dramatic improvement,” said Dr. Frausel. “If you compare between 2018 and 2019, there was basically no change in broadband access. But during the pandemic, the states and the federal government put a lot of effort into making sure students could attend school from home. We still have a long way to go—over 9 million children still don’t have access—but this is real progress.”

Although the study found that gains in access were broadly shared across children, the greatest strides were made for children from families with lower incomes. Children in families below the poverty line saw the largest improvement, from 61% having broadband in 2019 to 72% two years later.

“Everywhere we looked, we found lower levels of inequality: whether by home ownership, parental education, income, race and ethnicity. The gaps are still there, but they’re smaller than they used to be,” said Dr. Burroughs. “The real question now is whether we can sustain this momentum.”

As with a previous report conducted using 2018 data, there were significant differences in broadband access across different states and regions. By 2021, every state saw greater access, but some states saw greater gains than others. The South and West continued to have lower average access, but many of these states also saw the greatest gains relative to 2019.

The authors concluded by noting that many questions remain unanswered. According to Dr. Frausel, this study is part of a long-term project on the digital divide. “I’m really interested in seeing whether these gains continue, what state and local policies had the biggest impact, and taking a closer look at within-state differences,” she said. “There’s a lot of work to be done, both by researchers and policymakers.”