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Evidence Matters

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Fall 2016

Message from the Assistant Secretary

This issue of Evidence Matters discusses digital inequality and efforts to promote digital inclusion, especially as they relate to housing and community development. In recent years, substantial public and private investment in broadband infrastructure has largely closed gaps in the availability of high-speed Internet among U.S. households, although divides in infrastructure still exist between urban and rural areas. The most significant divides are in adoption — primarily because of a lack of affordability, inadequate connection speed and quality, and inequalities in digital literacy. Gaps in Internet use by age, race, educational attainment, and income persist, although they are shrinking. Analysis of American Community Survey and HUD administrative data reveals that HUD-assisted renters are particularly likely to be on the wrong side of digital divides. HUD-assisted households are less likely to have in-home Internet access than unassisted renters (43% and 69%, respectively), and HUD-assisted households in public housing and multifamily housing have lower connection rates than HUD-assisted households as a whole. These divides continue even as the Internet becomes increasingly necessary for an expansive range of tasks, from completing homework to applying for a job. The costs of these disadvantages are borne by individuals and families in the form of lost educational and employment opportunities and limited access to information as well as by society in the form of unrealized economic productivity.

HUD has taken steps to reduce digital disparities for assisted households, particularly recently. In 2015, HUD launched the ConnectHome initiative, a collaborative public-private effort to make free or low-cost broadband services and digital literacy supports available to families with school-aged children living in HUD-subsidized housing. ConnectHome started in 27 cities and 1 Tribal nation and could be scaled up to serve HUD-subsidized housing communities nationwide and possibly extended to HUD-assisted households using housing choice vouchers.



In This Issue

Community Development and the Digital Divide

Digital Inequality and Low-Income Households

Working To Bridge the Digital Divide

Additional Resources

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Rachelle Levitt

Megan Peppel (Former HUD Intern) and Sage Computing staff

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