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The second digital divide in Europe. A cross-national study on students’ digital reading and navigation skills
We investigate gender, migration and social-background disparities in digital reading and navigation skills using PISA 2012 computer-based data from 16 European countries. In comparison to the extant research on information skills disparities, we provide three main improvements. First, we rely on objective measures of navigation skills taken from the log files of the digital reading computer tests. Second, we distinguish a mere quantitative measure of browsing behavior from a more qualitative one which includes individuals' evaluative skills. Third, we compare print and paper-based reading scores, this allowing to assess social disparities in digital competences net of traditional skills and thus providing conservative estimates of the digital gaps. Our results point to the key importance of traditional competences in accounting for the observed digital gaps. Yet, the interplay between digitalization and education inequality is heterogeneous. Boys and girls show markedly different approaches to online navigation: the former show more operational familiarity with technology and 'trial and error' approaches and girls being more prone to 'think and then click' approaches. Concerning the migrant/native gaps, the picture is one in which children of immigrants underperform on the digital reading test, but catch up with natives when traditional reading competences are held equal. Immigrants' children show slightly higher navigation skills that may be employed to compensate their linguistic difficulties. Finally, youths from privileged social backgrounds show higher digital skills that persist even net of traditional competences pointing out the possible existence of a cumulative effect of traditional and digital inequalities.