Inequality in Household Adaptation to Schooling Shocks

Covid-induced Online Learning Engagement in Real Time

Published in: Journal of Public Economics, Volume 193, pages 104345–104361 (January 2021). doi: 10.1016/j.jpubeco.2020.104345

Posted on RAND.org on February 03, 2021

by Andrew Bacher-Hicks, Joshua Goodman, Christine Mulhern

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We use high frequency internet search data to study in real time how US households sought out online learning resources as schools closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. By April 2020, nationwide search intensity for both school- and parent-centered online learning resources had roughly doubled relative to pre-Covid levels. Areas of the country with higher income, better internet access and fewer rural schools saw substantially larger increases in search intensity. The pandemic will likely widen achievement gaps along these dimensions given schools' and parents' differing engagement with online resources to compensate for lost school-based learning time. Accounting for such differences and promoting more equitable access to online learning could improve the effectiveness of education policy responses to the pandemic. The public availability of internet search data allows our analyses to be updated when schools reopen and to be replicated in other countries.

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