August 2015

IZA DP No. 9302: Do Boys and Girls Use Computers Differently, and Does It Contribute to Why Boys Do Worse in School than Girls?

Boys are doing worse in school than are girls, which has been dubbed "the Boy Crisis". An analysis of the latest data on educational outcomes among boys and girls reveals extensive disparities in grades, reading and writing test scores, and other measurable educational outcomes, and these disparities exist across family resources and race. Focusing on disadvantaged schoolchildren, I then examine whether time investments made by boys and girls related to computer use contribute to the gender gap in academic achievement. Data from several sources indicate that boys are less likely to use computers for schoolwork and are more likely to use computers for playing games, but are less likely to use computers for social networking and email than are girls. Using data from a large field experiment randomly providing free personal computers to schoolchildren for home use, I also test whether these differential patterns of computer use displace homework time and ultimately translate into worse educational outcomes among boys. No evidence is found indicating that personal computers crowd out homework time and effort for disadvantaged boys relative to girls. Home computers also do not have negative effects on educational outcomes such as grades, test scores, courses completed, and tardies for disadvantaged boys relative to girls.