Computer and Internet Use in the United States

May 2013
Report Number: P20-569
Thom File


In 2011, more Americans connected to the Internet than ever before, although differences continued to exist between those with use and those without. Just as with differences in use, variation in the ways that people were connecting online and the frequency of their use remained prevalent as well.

This report provides household and individual level analysis of computer usage and Internet use. The findings are based on data collected in a July 2011 supplement to the Current Population Survey (CPS), which includes questions about computer ownership, Internet use both inside and outside the home, and the additional devices that people use to go online. The U.S. Census Bureau has asked questions in the CPS about computer use since 1984 and Internet use since 1997. This narrative report is complemented by a detailed table package that allows users to explore the data in more detail.

In 2011, household respondents were asked how many computers were present in their home. Respondents were also asked whether anyone in their household used the Internet from that home. Later in the survey, respondents were asked about the individual Internet activities of all members of the household, including whether they accessed the Internet, where that use took place, and what types of devices they used. Over time, the Census Bureau has changed the wording of many questions in the Computer and Internet Use Supplement. Appendix Table A presents a summary of these changes.

This report begins with a summary of computer and Internet use in American households since 1984, while the second part addresses use specifically in 2011. The final section presents a new “Connectivity Continuum” designed to show variations across an all-inclusive scale of personal technology adoption in the general public.