Bridging the digital divide is about more than just broadband internet. Households also need devices and skills to reap the full benefits of digital connectivity.

Having reliable at-home device access allows people to apply for jobs and participate in remote work or online learning. Devices are also becoming increasingly essential for carrying out basic tasks, such as managing a bank account or scheduling a doctor’s appointment.1

This research examines disparities in device access across Pennsylvania to help state and local policymakers understand where gaps exist. Based on American Community Survey data from 2016 to 2020, findings from the study include:

  • Counties with lower rates of device access tended to be less populous than those with higher rates. They also tended to have lower median household incomes.
  • Tract analyses of more populous counties show that tracts with lower rates of device access tended to have greater percentages of people of color, higher shares of people with disabilities, and lower median household incomes.
  • Both urban and rural counties were in the highest quintile for at-home device access through a smartphone alone. Many counties with high rates of device access through a smartphone alone also saw lower rates of device access overall.

These findings were originally shared at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s Digital Equity Training event in September 2022. The event’s purpose was to help Pennsylvania state and local leaders prepare plans to apply for federal grants under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Download the study.

  1. Jeremy W. Hegle and Jennifer Wilding, Disconnected: Seven Lessons on Fixing the Digital Divide, Kansas City, MO: Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, July 2019. Available at