"Digital Divides? Divergent Effects of Broadband Internet Expansion on Adolescent Educational Outcomes" Prof Pablo Gracia

The expansion of internet is likely to influence adolescents’ educational outcomes through various mechanisms. Yet, how internet coverage expansion impacts student educational performance remains poorly understood. This study addresses such an important knowledge gap by using a quasi-experimental approach to causally examine how the gradual introduction of home broadband internet across Norwegian municipalities impacted the academic outcomes of graduates from lower-secondary schools (N = 103,796). Analyses apply sibling fixed-effects models with micro-level registry data from adolescents aged 15 to 16, and compare differences by gender, social background, migrant status, and achievement levels. Findings show that the introduction of broadband internet across municipalities led to moderate grade improvements, but concentrating largely among boys in several subject areas, mostly in ‘Mathematics’, ‘Arts and Crafts’ and ‘Social Sciences’. The positive effect of broadband internet coverage on academic performance was three times larger among boys than among girls. For boys, broadband internet coverage led to strong grade improvements among students from lower-achievement groups and from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds, and to moderate grade improvements among boys of Norwegian background, while higher-achieving boys and boys from privileged socioeconomic backgrounds obtained moderately lower grades. By contrast, for girls, broadband internet expansion worsened substantially the academic performance of those from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds, but it also led to clearly higher grades among girls of migrant origin. These findings imply that broadband internet expansion influences adolescents’ educational performance differently across population groups, revealing complex intersections across gender, social background, migrant status, and achievement levels. The study implications are discussed.

Pablo Gracia is Professor in Sociology at Trinity College Dublin. Prof. Gracia’s research lies at the intersection of families and inequalities, and concerns particularly with how family inequalities relate to societal processes shaping parents’ and children’ daily lives and well-being. His ongoing research focuses on four main areas: 1) Social inequalities in child development dynamics; (2) Impacts of digitalisation and social media on adolescent well-being; (3) The micro-macro level determinants of adolescents’ daily activities; and (4) Gender inequalities in parent and child time use and well-being. He has recently been awarded the ERC Consolidator Grant as PI for his DIGINEQ project (“Digital Time Use, Adolescent Well-Being and Social Inequalities”; 2024-2029). Prof. Gracia has published multiple articles at high impact journals across Sociology (e.g., European Sociological Review, Journal of Marriage of Family, Social Science Research), Demography (e.g., European Journal of Population, Advances in Life Course Research, Demographic Research) and Media (New Media & Society), as well as one book and various book chapters with several recognised publishers (e.g., Polity Press, Sage, Edward Elgar).