The Digital Divide Persists: 1 in 5 Americans not online

The Pew Research Center’s new report on “Civic Engagement in the Digital Age” is chock full of fascinating information, which I wrote about in this story.

But while 60 percent of American adults use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and 81 percent of Americans are now online, it’s important to note that roughly 20 percent, or 1 in 5 Americans, are still NOT online. That’s more than I would have thought, given the preponderance of smart phones and other digital devices that are ubiquitous here in the Bay Area.

Who are they? I wondered. Thankfully, Pew has a treasure trove of information about this as well.

The class differences are stark. Among households earning $75,000 a year and more, 98 percent are online. Among households earning less than $30,000 a year, just 67 percent. Whites are online more than blacks and Hispanics; the college educated are online much, much more than those with only a high school diploma. Age is also a factor: 94 percent of 18 to 29 year olds are online, while just 54 percent of those age 65 and older are.





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  • sd

    Interesting results from Pew, but maybe not a lot of real surprises. Only half of older people (65+) are Internet users despite their general wealth and (ostensibly) greater free time. Minorities/poorer people (to some respect, the same thing) have lower adoption rates. I would expect a similar Pew survey in 20 years to up those percentages considerably as the Internet becomes more integrated into peoples’ lives.

    It does not surprise me that Internet adoption rates are lower once you get outside young-skewed technical centers like Silicon Valley. I would guess that asking these same questions in western Kansas or Oklahoma would yield very different numbers on Internet adoption rates and smartphone use, as these areas skew older and high-speed Internet service is not as easy to come by.

    So there’s a digital divide. But do we yet know why?

  • Robert Derman

    I would have to say that much of the problem is due to access to the internet being mostly through monopolies like Comcast and AT&T which have complete control over prices. Until cheap wireless high speed internet is available, especially in rural areas this situation will not improve. Wi-MAX or something similar needs to become universally available in this country.