Tech Inequities Driving ‘Homework Gap’


Nearly three-in-ten teenagers across the country face at least one academic challenge related to a lack of access to technology at home – a phenomenon often referred to as the “homework gap” – according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center.

Access to technology and reliable internet connectivity during the pandemic-driven pivot to virtual learning, and later the return to in-person classes, continues to be crucial to student success. The new survey reveals some teens, especially those from low-income households, face digital challenges in completing their schoolwork.

The “homework gap” disproportionately impacts students in low-income households, students of color, and students in rural areas, the report highlighted.

“[About] 22 percent of teens ages 13 to 17 often did their homework on a cell phone, 12 percent said sometimes they are not able to complete homework assignments because they did not have reliable access to a computer or internet connection, and 6 percent had to use public Wi-Fi to do their homework sometime because they didn’t have access to the internet connection at home,” the report noted.

In addition, the survey also highlighted that when it comes to racial and ethnic differences, Hispanic teens are more likely than both Black and White teens to not be able to complete homework because they lack reliable computer or internet access.

Hispanic teens are also more likely than White teens to say the same about having to do their homework on a cell phone or using public Wi-Fi for homework. Black and White teens are equally likely to report at least sometimes experiencing each of the three problems the survey covered.

Additionally, the survey highlighted that a parent’s socioeconomic status matters when it comes to homework gap challenges.

The survey found that about 24 percent of teens who live in a household making less than $30,000 a year sometimes are not able to complete their homework because they do not have reliable access to a computer or internet connection.

“Teens whose parent reports an annual income of less than $30,000 are also more likely to do homework on a cellphone or use public Wi-Fi for homework, compared with those living in higher-earning households,” the report added.

Overall, most teens preferred in-person learning over virtual or hybrid learning. They expressed worry that, due to this shift in learning environments and other coronavirus-related disturbances, they may have fallen behind in school.