Several nations — including Brazil, Uruguay, Peru, and Colombia — have used subsidized programs to get personal computers into poor households. Governments have promulgated such programs despite little credible evidence that the technology improves children’s academic performance or their behavior. Euro 200, a program administered by the Romanian Ministry of Education, gave out approximately 35,000 vouchers toward the purchase of a home computer in 2008.
The Euro 200 program met with mixed results, according to NBER researchers Ofer Malamud and Cristian Pop-Eleches. The voucher program boosted the likelihood of households owning a home computer by more than 50 percentage points and led to increased computer use. On one hand, children in families that received a voucher scored significantly higher on tests of computer skills and cognitive ability than their counterparts without a voucher. On the other hand, children in families that received a voucher had significantly lower school grades in math, English, and Romanian than their counterparts without vouchers. The authors conclude that “providing home computers to low-income children in Romania lowered academic achievement even while it improved their computer skills and cognitive ability.”
Home Computers and Human Capital, NBER Working Paper No. 15814, by Ofer Malamud and Cristian Pop-Eleches