According to a report released Tuesday (July 28) by the Pew Research Center, an analysis of more than 229,000 interviews conducted over the past 15 years shows that the percentage of U.S. online users grew from about 52 percent in 2000 to about 84 percent in 2013. Despite the huge leap in Internet usage during that timeframe, the 15 percent non-user tally has remained stubbornly fixed over the past two years.
Breaking that 15 percent down, Pew found that an equal number of adult men and women — at 15 percent each — are not online.
The reasons those “online disenfranchised” remain offline are varied, Pew found in 2013 and again in 2015. About a third of users did not venture online because they had “no interest in doing so or did not think the Internet was relevant to their lives.” Roughly another third of respondents said that the Internet seemed “too difficult” to use, with 8 percent of that group claiming that they felt “too old” to learn how to navigate the Net.
More recent data analysis from Pew, conducted this year, found that there are demographic variables at work in non-Net usage. Those variables span age, income, race and ethnicity.
Pew found that seniors represent the group most likely to say they “never” go online, with four in 10 adults above the age of 65 remaining on the Internet sidelines, a stark contrast to the meager 3 percent of 18–29 year olds who don’t use the Internet. Income and education also remain factors in why people remain offline, with the Pew study finding that a third of adults with less than high school level educations do not use the Internet. But as might be expected, as education levels move incrementally higher, so too does the rate of Internet use.
In terms of income, Pew estimated that adults who are part of households earning less than $30,000 annually are eight times more likely than their more affluent peers to remain offline. But only 3 percent of adults earning more than $75,000 per year are offline.
There is also a disproportionate number of Americans living in rural areas that do not use the Internet, at about twice the rate of people who live in either urban or suburban settings.
There are also divisions along racial and ethnic lines, according to Pew, with 20 percent of blacks and nearly as many Hispanic respondents stating that they do not go online. Those numbers dwarf the 14 percent of whites and only 5 percent of Asian-Americans reporting that they do not go online.
In a Tuesday article discussing the Pew survey, The New York Times noted that those surveyed found the cost of buying a computer or paying for Internet service remained prohibitive — factors that have kept 19 percent of would-be users offline. And as NYT noted, that represents a “Catch-22,” wherein those who would benefit greatly (financially) from online job services and listings are not in a position to afford access to those very services.
The most recent Pew information dovetails in part with a study released in April of this year, in which limited access to smartphone devices meant limited access to the Internet itself. In that data, as many as 7 percent of Americans own a smartphone, yet have only their devices as a means for going online. Of that number, roughly half have had to shut off their phones due to financial circumstances, with 30 percent of the users in this group stating that they frequently use up all the allotments on their data plans.