Home Computer Use and the Development of Human Capital
This paper uses a regression discontinuity design to estimate the effect of home computers on child and adolescent outcomes. We collected survey data from households who participated in a unique government program in Romania which allocated vouchers for the purchase of a home computer to low-income children based on a simple ranking of family income. We show that children in households who received a voucher were substantially more likely to own and use a computer than their counterparts who did not receive a voucher. Our main results indicate that that home computer use has both positive and negative effects on the development of human capital. Children who won a voucher had significantly lower school grades in Math, English and Romanian but significantly higher scores in a test of computer skills and in self-reported measures of computer fluency. There is also evidence that winning a voucher increased cognitive ability, as measured by Raven's Progressive Matrices. We do not find much evidence for an effect on non-cognitive outcomes. Finally, the presence of parental rules regarding computer use and homework appear to mitigate the effects of computer ownership, suggesting that parental monitoring and supervision may be important mediating factors.
This project would not have been possible without financial support from the Spencer Foundation, the Population Research Center (PRC) at NORC and the University of Chicago, ISERP at Columbia University, and the Center for Human Potential and Public Policy (CHPPP). We wish to thank Kerwin Charles, Janet Currie, Ray Fisman, Nora Gordon, Caroline Hoxby, Eleanor Kane, Larry Katz, Jens Ludwig, Bruce Meyer, Doug Miller, Andrei Schleifer, Cristina Vatulescu, Wesley Yin, as well as seminar participants at the Demography Workshop, the Applied Micro Workshop and the CHPPP Workshop at Chicago and the NBER Economics of Education Program Meetings. We are grateful to Grigore Pop-Eleches who has greatly contributed to the development and implementation of the project. We also thank Ioana Veghes at Gallup Romania for managing the survey and the data collection effort. All errors and opinions are our own. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
- Providing home computers to low-income children in Romania lowered academic achievement even while it improved their computer skills and...
Ofer Malamud & Cristian Pop-Eleches, 2011. "Home Computer Use and the Development of Human Capital," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 987-1027. citation courtesy of