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Online Learning and the Education Gap: A Digital Footprint Approach

Tue, Feb 27, 2024




Yongheng Deng


Using school closures across 21 cities in a Southern China province during the Covid-19 pandemic as a natural experiment, we study how online learning affects the education gap. We propose a digital footprint approach based on smartphone usage to identify families with children who graduate from primary school and family economic status based on the housing prices of their residential locations and shopping behavior. We find the advantage of children from better-to-do families increases with the duration of school closure. Furthermore, we report that different app usage habits during school closures are likely to contribute to the widening educational gap.


Yongheng Deng is a Professor and the John P. Morgridge Distinguished Chair in Business, Chair of the Department of Real Estate and Urban Land Economics, and Director of the Global Real Estate Masters Program (GREM), at the Wisconsin School of Business, University of Wisconsin – Madison. Professor Deng is the recipient of the 2021 Erwin A. Gaumnitz Distinguished Faculty Research Award in the Wisconsin School of Business.

Professor Deng’s research pertains to a wide variety of issues in real estate finance, housing and urban economics worldwide, including asset pricing and risk analysis focusing on the mortgage, mortgage-backed security and real estate capital markets; econometric analysis of competing risks of mortgage prepayment and default with unobserved heterogeneity; climate change risks and revaluation of the real estate markets; sustainable development; political economy and policy analysis of the housing markets in China and Asia.

Professor Deng has published his research works in leading economics and finance journals such as Econometrica, Journal of Financial Economics, Management Science, Review of Finance, Journal of Urban Economics, Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, China Economic Review, European Economic Review, Capitalism and Society, Regional Science and Urban Economics, Real Estate Economics, Journal of Housing Economics, Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, International Real Estate Review, Journal of Money Credit and Banking, and Pacific-Basin Finance Journal.


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