Lack of broadband access can limit job opportunities, report says
The pandemic has shown how a lack of digital resources can negatively impact the way people work, learn and live their lives. However, gaps in broadband service and device access already existed before COVID-19 and were only exacerbated by the circumstances.
This digital divide has an impact on local economies. According to a new report speak Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia Economic growth and mobility project analyst Allvaro Sanchez and Senior Economic Research Analyst Adam scavette, areas of the United States where residents had limited broadband and computer access also had a less engaged workforce.
The Philadelphia Fed found a 17-percentage-point gap in labor force participation rates between prime-age people (25-54) who have and do not have a computer with access broadband in the greater Philadelphia area. This means that 7 in 10 residents who do not have a computer with broadband access are part of the labor force, while almost 9 in 10 residents with broadband access and a computer are part of the labor force. of the local labor force.
Of America’s 25 most populous metropolitan areas, Philly Fed researchers found this to be the largest labor market participation gap.
âOne of the main things we found is that with middle-aged workers, having access to a broadband computer is more likely to participate in the workforce,â Sanchez said. âIt’s not just about being able to do leisure activities and work.
In addition to the shortcomings, the report also sought to offer insight into potential solutions. He detailed an access policy, supported by his findings, that could bring 400,000 residents into the workforce in US metropolitan areas by providing more broadband access to communities.
“Once you start talking about broadband access in all regions, you have to talk about economic opportunities for people.”
âFor the access policy, we wanted to have theoretical thinking experience,â Scavette said. “What if someone offered broadband to residents of the metro that were not served?” [-enabled] computers? How would this increase the labor force participation rate? What we found is that if you went through 380 metropolitan areas, 400,000 people would be added to the labor force. Based on an empirical report by [Rutgers University professor] Hilal atosoy looking at broadband access from the 90s to the 2000s, we simply took a parameter of it and applied it to the population in today’s metropolitan areas. In some cities you see higher increases than others.
Sanchez hopes to see more cross-sector collaboration that can help bridge the gap. Lack of broadband access is strongly correlated with poverty rates. It is a matter of income equity and racial equity.
âIn terms of progress, any sort of collaboration between the public and private sectors is a victory,â Sanchez said. âThis is a victory for people living in predominantly black and Latino communities who are struggling to gain broadband access. We would like to point out that when we talk about broadband access, we [also] talk about racial equality. Once you start talking about broadband access in all regions, you need to talk about economic opportunities for people. “
Michael Butler is a 2020-2021 corps member of Report for America, an initiative of the Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism. -30-