Who Uses the Internet? (Part 2: Demographics)
10/1/08 / Geoff Urland
Part one of our examination of who uses the Internet looked at the question geographically. In part two, we’ll look at Internet usage nationwide (data again via the NTIA) broken down by several important demographic variables.
In all of the graphs that follow, in-home Internet usage (green portion of the bars) and outside of the home internet usage (gold portion of the bars) are summed to derive the total Internet usage rate. The bars correspond to the percentage of households with each type of internet usage, and the demographic categories are for the adult reference person for that household, called the householder.
There is a strong linear trend between education (here, the highest level of schooling completed by the householder) and Internet use, with only about a quarter of homes where the householder completed only an elementary education using the Internet, increasing up to 90 percent for householders who are college graduates. College graduates love their Internet (and also are more likely to have the financial resources to pay for it), so they are the ones who are more likely to be reached by an Internet survey.
Households with Asian-American and Caucasian householders have the highest rates of Internet usage at 82 percent and 75 percent, respectively. American Indians have the largest rate of outside the home Internet use: 18 percent.
But beyond the fact that there is no chance of contacting via email, web-ad, twitter, or social networking a fifth of households with Asian-American householders and a quarter of households with Caucasian householders, is the sobering reality that Internet marketing and research won’t ever reach 4 out of ten households with American Indian or African-American householders, nor nearly half of all households with Hispanic householders.
Similar to education level, Internet usage rises with family income (with the curious exception of the 2 percent of all households who earn less than $5,000 annually). Additionally, as income rises, the percentage of households that only use the Internet outside of their home falls. Only 58 percent of all households earning less than $50,000 a year use the Internet at all.
What have we learned? That the digital divide still exists and that the Internet, like any other medium, has plenty who will miss the message. Internet surveys and marketing will disproportionately miss those with lower incomes, those who are racial and ethnic minorities (with the exception of Asian-Americans), and those who have less education.
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