Access to computers and the internet are important to our way of life. We use the internet to shop, pay bills and stay connected to each other. Yet, a digital divide exists between those who have and those who lack access to computers and the internet, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report, Computer and Internet Use in the United States: 2015.
“There are important differences in demographic, social and geographic characteristics when it comes to computer and internet use,” said Camille Ryan, a demographer in the Social, Economic and Housing Statistics Division.
In general, greater internet access tends to follow logical patterns. Overall, 62 percent of American households had “high connectivity,” meaning they had three key computer and internet items: a desktop or laptop, a handheld computer or smartphone, and a broadband internet subscription. High connectivity was greatest where the householder was younger than 65 years old or where household income was at least $150,000.
However, there are signs that handheld devices such as smartphones may help level the playing field. Some households that lack a desktop or laptop are using a smartphone or other handheld device to connect to the internet.
“When it comes to income and race and Hispanic origin, the pattern is reversed. Although low-income households had the lowest overall connectivity, they had the highest proportion of ‘handheld only’ households — that is they relied solely on a handheld device or smartphone to connect to the internet,” said Ryan. “As mobile devices continue to evolve and increase in popularity, it will be interesting to see what happens with this group.”
For more information, see Computer and Internet Use in the United States: 2015. This Census Bureau report examines key trends and characteristics of computer and internet use using data from the Current Population Survey and the American Community Survey.
Julie Iriondo is a public affairs specialist at the U.S. Census Bureau.