The FINANCIAL — Roughly six-in-ten parents with lower incomes said it’s likely their homebound children would face at least one digital obstacle to doing their schoolwork, according to Pew Research. Overall, 38% of parents with children whose K-12 schools closed in the spring said that their child was very or somewhat likely to face one or more of these issues. In addition, parents with middle incomes were about twice as likely as parents with higher incomes to report anticipating issues.
Concerns related to the “homework gap” have affected families and driven policymakers for years. After the coronavirus outbreak shut down most of the country, including most K-12 schools, some parents reported worries about how their child would be able to complete their schoolwork from home, according to the Center’s April 7-12 survey of U.S. adults. At the time, 29% of parents with homebound schoolchildren said it was very or somewhat likely their children would have to do their schoolwork on a cellphone. About one-in-five parents also said it was at least somewhat likely their children would not be able to complete their schoolwork because they did not have access to a computer at home (21%) or would have to use public Wi-Fi to finish their schoolwork because there was not a reliable internet connection at home (22%).
Parents who anticipated at least one of these obstacles were more likely than others to say schools should provide computers to at least some students during the outbreak (92%) and that the government should ensure high-speed internet access to all Americans during the outbreak (57%). By comparison, fewer parents who expected their child to encounter no such challenges said the same (80% and 34%, respectively).
Only a minority believed it is the federal government’s responsibility to ensure all Americans have a high-speed internet connection at home during the outbreak, survey results show.
Some groups – in particular, those who view the internet as essential or worry about affording it – were more likely to believe that the government should be responsible for ensuring internet access during the pandemic.
Those who are concerned about paying for internet are more likely to say the government should ensure internet access during the COVID-19 outbreak
Overall, 37% of U.S. adults said in spring that the federal government has a responsibility to ensure all Americans have a high-speed internet connection at home during the outbreak, but this varied by people’s concerns about paying for these services.
Broadband users who were concerned a lot or some about paying for their internet over the next few months were 21 percentage points more likely than those who were not too or not at all worried to say the government has a responsibility to ensure internet access for all Americans during the outbreak (52% vs. 31%).
At the same time, the public’s views varied by the level of importance they placed on the internet during this time. While 44% of Americans who said the internet has been essential to them personally during this outbreak believed the government has a responsibility during the pandemic to ensure that all Americans have high-speed internet access, these shares were smaller among those who deemed the internet as important but not essential (31%) and those who described the internet during this time as not too or not at all important (25%).
Views on the issue also varied by partisanship. Overall, Democrats and independents who lean Democratic were more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners to say the federal government has a responsibility to ensure all Americans have a high-speed internet connection during the outbreak (52% vs. 22%). While the majority of Republicans (77%) opposed this initiative, it is worth noting that about half of Democrats (48%) also did not support government involvement.
Public support for government assistance on this issue is relatively low when compared with other areas. In a 2019 Center survey, 28% of U.S. adults said the federal government has a responsibility to provide access to high-speed internet to all Americans. Americans were much more likely to say the federal government has a responsibility to provide other support and services, such as high-quality K-12 education (80%), adequate medical care (73%) or health insurance (64%).