Compared with their urban and suburban peers, rural students in the United States are less likely to complete higher education. Thus, they forego one of the main paths to the development of human capital and its associated benefits. Some have pointed to divides in Internet access, due to concentrated socioeconomic inequalities and gaps in the infrastructure for fixed home broadband, as a contributor to rural students’ reduced ability to acquire human capital. Overcoming the “homework gap” between students who can and cannot use the Internet from home, possibly through wireless Internet access, has been suggested as one solution to bridging human capital and economic divides. However, there is mixed evidence that Internet use in general plays a supportive role in the formation of young peoples’ human capital. This talk contributes to clarifying these incomplete and sometimes conflicting arguments about the role of access and use of digital media on human capital in a rural context.
Keith N. Hampton is a professor in the Department of Media and Information at Michigan State University, where he is also Associate Director for Academic Research at the James H. and Mary B. Quello Center for Media and Information Policy, and an Affiliate Faculty in the Department of Sociology. Keith’s research is focused on the relationship between new information and communication technologies, social networks, democratic engagement and the urban environment. His recent research has looked at the outcomes of persistent contact and pervasive awareness through social media, including stress, social isolation, exposure to diverse points of view, and willingness to voice opinions.