Now more than ever, having a computer at home with high-speed internet is essential to completing basic activities, from distance learning to remote work and job searches. A new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia explores the connection between access to broadband and labor force participation across all U.S. metro areas and finds that:
- regional levels of broadband subscription, computer access, and poverty are highly correlated.
- geography matters: Metro areas with low household broadband subscription and computer access were primarily located in the Southeast and Southwest, while high-connectivity regions were concentrated in the Northeast and West Coast.
- across U.S. metros, prime-age workers (people 25–54) with a broadband-enabled computer participate in the labor force at a much higher rate than prime-age workers without such access.
The research suggests that an “Access Policy” that provides a broadband-enabled computer to unserved metro populations could raise prime-age labor force participation rates. These digital inclusion efforts may have the greatest impact if they target regions with higher levels of poverty or economic insecurity, where computer access and broadband subscription rates often trail other regions.
This report is part of a Research in Action Lab. Conducted in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry and Penn State Extension, the lab will prioritize expanding broadband infrastructure to unserved residents, increasing broadband subscription in low- and moderate-income communities, and developing digital literacy among workers. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia will use its expertise in economic research and community outreach to form a coalition of partners to identify innovative solutions to bridge the digital divide.
For more information about the Philadelphia Fed’s Research in Action Labs, please see “Research in Action Labs: Local Solutions to Economic Problems.”
Read the report.