Learning at Home While Under-connected

Learning at Home While Under-connected

Lower-Income Families During the COVID-19 Pandemic

New Survey Fielded by SSRS for New America

In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic radically changed life in this country almost overnight. The nation began sheltering in place: school buildings were closed, playgrounds locked, and child care facilities shuttered, dramatically upending families’ lives in the process. Life—and learning—were hastily moved online.

Students’ unequal access to broadband and digital devices have concerned educators and policymakers for years. But when the pandemic shifted schooling into remote learning, a stable internet connection and functional digital device were no longer part of a quality education; they became the only way for families with school-aged children to continue learning at home. As remote learning stretched from weeks, to months, and then to whole school terms, it became clear that digital inequality was affecting the ability of students in lower-income families to remain engaged in school virtually. Some of these families’ digital equity issues have been well documented, but there is still much more that policymakers and educators need to know about their experiences learning at home during the pandemic, and their priorities for school next year.

This report presents the findings of a nationally representative, probability-based telephone survey of more than 1,000 parents of children ages three to 13, all with household incomes below the national median for families in the United States (i.e., $75,000). The survey was conducted in March and April of 2021: one year into the pandemic, and a crucial turning point. Parents could reflect on a full year of remote learning and pandemic parenting, and also look forward—thanks to the proliferation of vaccines—to their children’s full and safe return to in-person schooling in the fall.