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Targeting School Lunch Programs to Reach America’s Most Vulnerable

By Chris McGovern, Manager, Research Development, Connected Nation

(July 11, 2011) - Across the board, households with lower incomes subscribe to broadband at a lower rate than higher-income households. The presence of this “Affordability Gap” can have a significant effect upon economic growth and opportunity – with the economy moving increasingly online, ensuring that every American has digital skills is crucial to economic growth, education, and workforce development.

But how much of a barrier is affordability? What is the most efficient and effective way of bridging the Affordability Gap? How many non-adopting households would be motivated to adopt broadband through low-cost incentive programs or targeted discounts? Is there any defining demographic characteristic of this community that would allow policymakers to efficiently target such initiatives?

According to a report released by Connected Nation today, titled
“Broadband Adoption Among Low-Income Households: Insights from Connected Nation Research,” low-income households with children are at a particularly high risk, and this lack of broadband for such a large number of American schoolchildren affects the education and social welfare of our entire country. This report finds that 32% of households with children where the annual income is less than $25,000 do not have computers in the home, and 61% do not subscribe to home broadband service. In addition, based on our surveys, we estimate that 23% of households with children eligible (or near the eligibility threshold) for free or reduced lunches through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) do not own a computer, and 48% do not subscribe to home broadband service. If these figures are extrapolated to the nation as a whole, that would mean that approximately 2.9-3.9 million low-income households with children don’t have a home computer, and 5.5-8.1 million don’t subscribe to home broadband service.
These results, as well as a more in-depth analysis of barriers to adoption among low-income households, can be found here.