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Homework Gap

16.9 Million Children Remain Logged Out Because They Don’t Have Internet at Home

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a near-total shutdown of the U.S. school system, forcing more than 55 million students to transition to home-based remote learning practically overnight. In most cases, that meant logging in to online classes and accessing lessons and assignments through a home internet connection. Sadly, that was not an option for children in one out of three Black, Latino, and American Indian/Alaska Native households.

Nationwide, across all racial and ethnic groups, 16.9 million children remain logged out from instruction because their families lack the home internet access necessary to support online learning, a phenomenon known as the “homework gap.” According to an analysis of data from the 2018 American Community Survey conducted for All4Ed, National Urban League, UnidosUS, and the National Indian Education Association, millions of households with children under the age of 18 years lack two essential elements for online learning: (1) high-speed home internet service and (2) a computer.

Lack of High-Speed Internet and Connected Devices

Nationwide, one out of three Black, Latino, and American Indian/Alaska Native households lack high-speed home internet access and one in six do not have a computer.
Nationwide, four in ten families that earn less than $25,000 annually do not have high-speed home internet access and three in ten do not have a computer.
Nationwide, nearly two out of every five families living in rural areas do not have high-speed home internet service.

Five Facts About Home Internet Access for Students

Learn More About Internet Access in Your State

As you click on your state, you will find information by race, income, and location.

The Cost to Close the Homework Gap

Most of the burden for equipping students with devices and internet access for online learning will fall to schools, districts, and states. But they cannot resolve the existing disparities alone. Bringing high-speed home internet access to all 8.4 million households that currently are offline will require Congress to approve additional funding to support students’ learning needs.

Congress should appropriate the $6.8 billion necessary to cover immediate costs related to high-speed home internet access and devices in any upcoming funding packages passed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ultimately, additional substantial resources will be necessary to build out the infrastructure in rural areas where connectivity is not currently available. This is critical to do in the long term to ensure students in isolated regions have full access to a high-quality education. However, these costs fall outside the scope of the immediate response to COVID-19 necessary for students to participate in online learning during the 2020–2021 school year.

TechnologyHouseholds/Children Without AccessCost per Household/Child to Provide AccessTotal Cost
High-Speed Home Internet8,365,183 households$600 annually$5,019,109,800
Computer7,273,556 children$250 one-time cost$1,818,389,000

Notes: This chart calculates the costs of high-speed home internet service based on the number of households without access since a single internet subscription serves multiple family members. By contrast, this chart calculates computer costs based on the number of children without a device since each child needs an individual computer to participate in online learning.

Homework Gap in California

An analysis from All4Ed and the Linked Learning Alliance shows the very students who could benefit the most from the college- and career-focused approach of Linked Learning are the least likely to have the internet and devices needed to access it from home.

Keeping Students Linked in California