There’s a reason why Silicon Valley has a reputation for being the land of young, white, privileged brogrammers.
If you look at the makeup of students today, white children who grow up in higher-income households with educated parents are more likely to have a computer at home and access to computer science classes, according to a new survey from Gallup that was commissioned by Google. (The report surveyed 1,673 students in seventh to 12th grades, 1,685 parents, 1,013 teachers, 9,693 principals, and 1,865 school district superintendents.)
Students who are black, Hispanic, and/or from lower income backgrounds are less likely to have computers at home or any type of computer science instruction. Hispanic students in particular have the lowest rate of access to computers—both at home and at school. (The survey did not include any data for Asian students. A Gallup spokesman said there weren’t “enough respondents in that group to break out and report separately.”)
All that said, parents of households with an annual income of $54,000 or less are the most bullish about the opportunities computer science classes will give their children. Twenty-nine percent said they believed computer science is more important to a student’s future success than required courses, such as math, science, history, and English; three-quarters thought most students should be required to learn computer science.
But the reality is many schools, especially those serving students from disadvantaged backgrounds, are ill equipped to teach a computer science curriculum. Not all principals and superintendents view it as a priority—especially if they work at a public school district or in a rural area.
In addition, principals whose schools don’t offer computer science education say they are too burdened with existing testing requirements (32% of them cited this as the main reason, more than any other), are too financially strapped to train and hire new teachers, and can’t afford the necessary equipment.
These charts help explain why the tech world is so homogenous. Children who grow up with privilege are more likely to learn how to program. The ability to write code is highly prized by Silicon Valley, making it especially welcoming to the already privileged.