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Three Papers Using NTIA Data to be Presented at Research Conference

September 07, 2017 by John B. Morris, Jr., Associate Administrator, Office of Policy Analysis and Development

For more than 20 years, NTIA has commissioned the U.S. Census Bureau to conduct surveys on Internet and computer use. The Census Bureau periodically includes this Digital Nation survey as a supplement to its Current Population Survey (CPS) – it’s one of numerous supplements that are regularly included with the CPS, with topics ranging from school enrollment to tobacco use.

NTIA has offered our analysis of the resulting data in a series of reports, and we post the raw datasets and other analysis tools to assist researchers who want to use the data. This enables researchers outside of government to make original and innovative use of the data in their own studies, which ultimately contribute to better-informed policymaking.

Tomorrow, three research papers using NTIA’s Digital Nation survey data will be presented at the 45th Research Conference on Communications, Information and Internet Policy (TPRC), an annual conference attended by researchers, policymakers, and advocates from the public, academic, and private sectors. The papers serve as instructive examples of how researchers can take NTIA’s survey data beyond the basic metrics to offer unique and valuable insights into Internet use in America.

Policy staff from NTIA will present one of the papers, which examines the connection between digital and financial inclusion. Another paper – a TPRC Student Paper Contest winner – comes from a student from Oklahoma State University Stillwater who wrote about the behavioral relationships behind the increases in mobile-only households. And researchers from the University of Redlands School of Business used NTIA data to examine geographic patterns of Internet use in U.S. states.

In their paper, NTIA staff* merged datasets from two supplements to the CPS – the FDIC’s June 2015 Unbanked and Underbanked survey and NTIA’s July 2015 Computer and Internet Use survey. Their paper identifies a strong relationship between patterns of Internet activity and being unbanked or underbanked – i.e., households that do not have bank accounts, or use alternative financial services in addition to bank accounts. The research suggests that increasing adoption of mobile banking and other financial technology as a means of greater financial inclusion may require increased Internet adoption, as well as digital literacy training.

The paper is also notable because it offers a methodology for merging two CPS supplements that contain overlapping samples. This approach could help researchers explore other intersectional issues. For example, the CPS collects data on voting and registration during November of even-numbered years, and that data could be merged with NTIA’s next Computer and Internet Use survey – which will go into the field this coming November – to better understand any connections between voting and Internet use.

Jacob Manlove, a student in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Oklahoma State University Stillwater, was among three winners of TPRC’s Student Paper Contest. Along with Oklahoma State professor Brian Whitacre, he noted that NTIA’s survey showed that the proportion of online households using the Internet at home exclusively through a mobile broadband connection increased from about 9% in 2011 to 20% in 2015, and his paper sought to explain that trend by examining the changing relationships of various demographics, such as age, race/ethic background, and rural/non-rural.

In the paper from the University of Redlands, researchers Avijit Sarkar, James Pick, and Elizabeth Parrish examined geographic and socioeconomic disparities in Internet use among the 50 states, using 17 indicators of Internet use found in NTIA’s Digital Nation survey. They write that new disparities and dimensions of the digital divide – including social, economic, societal, and environmental factors – will become important to study as new technologies emerge.

These papers, and others like them, can be vital resources for policymakers as they look to develop approaches to increase Internet access and bridge the digital divide. NTIA encourages others to use our data in their own work to help contribute to ongoing conversations in this field, and to contact our team at data@ntia.doc.gov with any questions about the datasets.

Want to learn more about NTIA’s Digital Nation data and research? Sign up for our Data Central mailing list to stay up-to-date on new developments.

*NTIA staff will present their paper in their personal capacity, and the views expressed in the paper are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

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