Investigating how the interaction between individual andcircumstantial determinants influence the emergence ofdigital poverty: a post-pandemic survey among families withchildren in England

Published: 19/01/2023

Author(s): Other

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Key takeaways:

This paper explores Digital Poverty (DP) in England by adopting the DP Alliance’s theoretical framework that includes both Individual Determinants (individual capability and motivation) and Circumstantial Determinants (conditions of action). Such a framework is interpreted as an expression of Strong Structuration Theory (SST), by situating the connection between social structure and human agency in an intertwined relationship. We focus on new potential vulnerabilities connected to DP in England by drawing on a survey conducted on a randomised stratified sample (n = 1988) of parents aged between 20–55 with children at school.


Online survey of UK Internet users aged 20–55 with school-aged children (1988 responses considered valid in this study). The decision to focus on this cohort stems from evidence in studies regarding digital inequalities among young users and their reliance on the Internet for healthcare and financial well-being. The study relies on Internet users to investigate how the ubiquity of technology in life due to restrictions during the pandemic has exposed them to DP. We focused on users on the cusp of DP but not ‘digitally excluded’ (no access to ICTs). This is in line with our definition of DP as a continuum with varying degrees of DP among users. Due to digital acceleration, those with access to the Internet and digital skills risk falling behind, since they're not taking advantage of online services and opportunities. Additional variables were chosen following the Determinants of DP developed by DPA. We stratified the sample according to age, education, gender, income, and family status


Survey, Literature Review and/or Policy Proposal


By emphasising the intersections between digital experience and socioeconomic circumstances, this paper defines Digital Poverty as the inability to profit from the online realm when needed. The introductory section of this paper highlighted the need for a cautious approach that considers both structural constraints and individual agency to understand the interaction between societal dynamics and technologies. In this vein, this study interpreted the Digital Poverty Alliance’s theoretical framework as an expression of SST by situating the connection between social structure and human agency in an intertwined relationship, suggesting that individuals act consistently with their metabolised embodiment of external determinants (Greenhalgh & Stones, 2010; Stones, 2005). Using this conceptual framework, we investigated how Circumstantial Determinants influence the Individual Determinants of Digital Poverty in English families. However, in light of the SST, such a relationship should be interpreted as phenomenological, which means that parents may act following their metabolised embodiment of such external determinants and circumstances via their individual characteristics (Greenhalgh & Stones, 2010; Stones, 2005).

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