Lee Joe
Joe Lee
Research Analyst, Regional Economics Research
Joe Lee is a research analyst with the Milken Institute on the regional economics team.  He specializes in labor economics with a focus in human capital and economic development. 
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The Internet: What is Effective Access?

By: Joe Lee
August 03, 2017

The internet is a platform for consuming content and has the capacity to entertain and spread knowledge. Recent Milken Institute research shows evidence that internet usage can provide people who are interested and curious a way to increase their own ability in a tangible way through obtaining higher levels of education. In the sample used, an increase in an individual’s average weekly internet usage by an hour increases the likelihood of obtaining a bachelor’s degree by 1.4 percent. The positive relationship between internet usage and education still exists when income, age, gender, parental education, family size, race, and religion are taken into account. This indicates that the internet can be a useful tool for a broader population regardless of access to resource allocation toward education. Education can help provide the skills needed to adapt to changes in the economy and present a pathway to update skill sets, creating economic opportunity. However, the benefits of the internet are not evenly distributed because of limited high-speed access both in urban and rural areas across the U.S.

Finding employment will only get more competitive as the internet facilitates the expansion of job recruitment beyond political borders. Education imparts knowledge and increases personal capacity to synthesize that knowledge, while creating a skill set. An increasingly important part of getting a degree is the signal that a person has this set of skills. Being the smartest person in the room is great, but getting in the room is a problem that many people face. A degree can help with both of these things.

The internet has caused some of the greatest changes in the modern era. The value of tutorials, access to teachers, peer interaction, or any other auxiliary support can empower students to improve outcomes. These options that give people an advantage are more accessible and convenient online. The opportunity to gather knowledge has been increased and access has become more widespread, but some disparities remain. Internet based sources of knowledge allow a person who is interested and curious to better themselves and add to a discussion.

Urban vs. Rural Household Internet Subscription Types

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The evolution of how education is delivered and the types of resources available lead to the issue of effective access. A high-speed internet connection is required to have effective access to all the resources that the internet has to offer. While the vast majority of the U.S. has some access to the internet, there are large sections of America that do not have effective access. The barriers that arise from not having a high-speed connection will only grow as time continues to cement the usefulness of a broader platform for communication. For those who do not have effective access to the internet, the ability to fact check or pursue their interests becomes harder. Given the link between the internet and educational attainment, there is a need to ensure that the full benefits the internet are available to everyone. Major population centers have more people without effective access than one would think. In urban areas, 13 percent of households are lacking a high-speed internet connection. Outside of population centers, there are just over 22 percent of households without high-speed internet. The lack of high-speed internet puts people at a disadvantage because there are fewer pathways for information to be obtained and resources like online degrees are less effective.

The internet’s benefits are maximized when people have effective access so they can make the most of their economic opportunities. Globalization of the economy requires a specialized and adaptable of skills. Access and speed of an internet connection will only increase in value and importance with the growth of online educational resources. Lack of high-speed internet access increasingly limits educational opportunities. Maintaining a competitive advantage of an educated population should be facilitated by spreading knowledge. By expanding the percentage of the U.S. population that has reliable access to high-speed internet, economic opportunity can increase.