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The Early Roots of the Digital Divide: Socioeconomic Inequality in Children’s ICT Literacy from Primary to Secondary Schooling

Giampiero Passaretta () and Carlos Gil-Hernández ()
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Giampiero Passaretta: Stockholm University Demography Unit (SUDA)

No 2022-04, JRC Working Papers on Social Classes in the Digital Age from Joint Research Centre

Abstract: Information and communications technology (ICT) skills are crucial for labour market success and full participation in society. Socioeconomic status (SES) inequality in the development of ICT skills would prevent disadvantaged children from reaping the benefits of the digital age. Besides, the digital divide in ICT literacy might add to the already well-documented large and persistent SES inequality in ‘hard’ skills—like math, reading, and science. This article studies the roots, evolution, and drivers of SES inequality in ICT literacy from age 8 to 15 in Germany. Drawing from the German National Educational Panel Study (NEPS), we highlight five main findings: (1) SES gaps in ICT literacy exist as early as age 8 (grade 3) and are similar in size compared to SES gaps in hard skills; (2) like hard skills, SES gaps in ICT literacy remain stable over primary and tracked lower secondary schooling; (3) ICT access and use at home and school do not substantially explain SES gaps in ICT literacy at any age; (4) selection into school tracks seems a critical pathway, although not necessarily a causal one, leading to SES inequality in secondary school; (5) SES gaps in ICT literacy are not observed among children with similar levels of hard skills. We discuss the implications of these findings for the interdisciplinary literature on social stratification, skill formation, and the digital divide.

Keywords: digital skills; ICT literacy; socioeconomic status inequality; educational inequality; digital divide; Germany (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 29 pages
Date: 2022-06
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-eur and nep-ict
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