California Homework Gap Methodology

The data used for this report comes from the 2019 American Community Survey (ACS). This survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, contacts 3.5 million households per year. Households receive notices through the mail that they have been selected for the survey, and they can respond through the mail, using the internet, or by telephone. If contacted households do not respond, ACS follows up with phone calls to ask that the households complete the survey. Approximately 90 percent of contacted households complete the ACS.

The large sample size of ACS allows analysis of fairly disaggregated geographic units and, since the ACS is an ongoing survey, the Census Bureau aggregates the data in different ways. For geographic areas such as states and many counties, the “1-year ACS Estimates” are appropriate, as that survey can be used to analyze places with populations of 65,000 or more. Most, but not all, counties in California are large enough so that it is appropriate to use one-year ACS estimates. Where counties are not large enough, they have been combined for analysis.

To characterize “wireline broadband service” at home, the report uses an ACS question that asks whether a household subscribes to internet service such as cable, fiber, or digital subscriber line (DSL). The ACS also asks whether a household has a desktop or laptop computer (in a single question) and a tablet computer. For the analysis on device ownership, this report focuses on whether a household with children under the age of 18 years has either a laptop, desktop, or tablet computer.