As online schooling plays an increasingly large role in education, researchers say more work needs to be done to understand and address why some families have a harder time accessing the internet.
A new study shows that one reason is racial segregation.
Since before the pandemic, Benjamin Skinner has been researching broadband access and how lack of home internet impacts students’ ability to do online work. While studying this digital divide, Skinner, an assistant professor of higher education and policy at the University of Florida, noticed that conversation around the issue is often presented as an urban-rural divide. What no one talks enough about is that “we have a digital divide right within suburban and urban areas as well,” he said.
“There is a digital divide within areas that are geographically pretty proximate and they have real potential impacts for student’s geography of opportunity,” Skinner said.
Last summer, Skinner and his colleagues at University of Florida, faculty member Hazel Levy and doctoral candidate Taylor Burtch, began researching broadband history and differences in access. In a new paper, “Digital Redlining: The Relevance of 20th Century Housing Policy to 21st Century Broadband Access and Education,” the coauthors link disparities in current broadband access to Depression-era federal housing policies that prevented people in majority-Black neighborhoods from getting mortgages because their neighborhoods were considered“ high risk.” At the same time, the government helped developers build new suburban subdivisions exclusively for white people. The policy, known as redlining, fueled racial segregation and long-term disinvestment in Black communities.
“It’s important for us in education research to look at that history,” Skinner said. “Why might this be the case, and being able to tie that in to histories of redlining, histories of federal housing policies, of segregation.”
Read the full article about Internet inequality by Javeria Salman at The Hechinger Report.
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