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The Digital Differences In Americans 214

antdude writes "When the Pew Internet Project first studied the role of the internet in American life, there were big differences between those who were using the internet and those who weren't. Today, differences in internet access still exist, especially when it comes to access to high-speed broadband at home. From the article: 'Virtually every U.S. household with an annual income over $75,000 is online, but that’s only true for 63% of adults who live in a household with an annual income under $30,000. The numbers look quite similar for different education levels: 94% of adults with post-graduate degrees are online, but 57% of those without high school diplomas remain offline. Beside the obvious economic barriers to entry, though, the Pew poll also found that half of those who don’t go online do so because they just don’t think “the Internet is relevant to them.” One in five of those who are not online today think that they just don’t know enough about technology to use the Internet on their own.'"
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The Digital Differences In Americans

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  • by memoreks ( 1172021 ) on Sunday April 15, 2012 @01:42PM (#39694269)
    People earning less cash can afford less things! Who'da thought it?
    • Or the brilliant insight that senile - I mean senior - citizens who grew up when radio was the most technologically advanced thing don't have an interest in those newfangled computational contraptions.
  • by NoNonAlphaCharsHere ( 2201864 ) on Sunday April 15, 2012 @01:44PM (#39694289)
    If that's true, then who's misspelling the captions on all those cat pictures?
  • by hsthompson69 ( 1674722 ) on Sunday April 15, 2012 @01:50PM (#39694333)

    ...are by definition below average intelligence.

    Why would we think that 100% of people would be able to use the internet on their own? Or get a higher education for that matter?

    • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Sunday April 15, 2012 @02:02PM (#39694417)

      No, the definition is 50% are below median. The median doesn't necessarily have to equal the average, although for a typical bell curve like intelligence it usually is pretty close.

      Its not terribly hard to find a distribution where median and mean are not the same. Stereotypical heartbeat rate in a morgue. Video game level/skill/score.

      The almost blindingly obvious reason 1/5 of the population doesn't use the net is its almost impossible and fairly pointless if you're functionally illiterate. Which is probably a good description of about 1/5 the population. I had a former boss who "bragged" about not reading a book since high school... punchline was he had gray hair. Probably not a amazon/kindle customer, etc.

      • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot.hackish@org> on Sunday April 15, 2012 @02:18PM (#39694505)

        That hypothesis doesn't explain why 94% of people age 18-29 use the internet, unless intelligence and/or literacy rates have massively increased.

        A simpler hypothesis is that old people don't use the internet, and young people do, and other factors are minimal.

        • Nonsense, many seniors are online and many kids are not. It's more an issue of education and class than age. We have a lot of people of all ages in the US who couldn't read a book or use a computer if their lives depended upon it.
          • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot.hackish@org> on Sunday April 15, 2012 @04:19PM (#39695247)

            That's not what the statistics in the linked report show; they show a much bigger age difference than an education or class difference. 41% of people 65+ are online, whereas 94% of people 18-29 are online, a difference that completely swamps the other factors.

            • When you can report that all the many studies done on this subject agree, you might actually have something. There are so many studies whose results contradict each other every day. This is why we need to learn to think critically, and not just swallow every bit of "information" we get from some "study". Do you think this particular study actually surveyed evey household in the US? :)
              • What is the distribution of reported percentages of seniors using the internet? Of 18-29 year olds?

                • That depends upon whom you ask. I never claimed to be the One True Source with Definitive Numbers, I was simply questioning the person who essentially did make that claim.
                  • That depends upon whom you ask.

                    This, and some of what you said in your previous leads me to believe that you were aware of multiple studies on this topic (of course, you might have just meant that there were conflicting studies in general). This is why I asked for a distribution. Did one study put the percentage of 18-29 years at 94%, and another at 89%, and yet a third at 95%?

                    • Those are your questions, not mine. Why must you insist others spoon-feed you? Where is your initiative? You are simply willfully ignorant, and are resistant to finding answers.
        • by vlm ( 69642 )

          Ask an old functionally illiterate guy like my long ex boss, if he reads books and he's all "f no". He did read a book once while 18 in high school, but he says "no"

          I do not think its possible to go thru high school in the 00s 10s and not use the internet. Ask a 19 year old supermarket cashier who hasn't used the internet since copying and pasting a wikipedia article into a high school book report, and she'll say "yes" because it was recent.

          Also I think functional illiteracy is in strong decline in the US

      • by Hatta ( 162192 )

        The almost blindingly obvious reason 1/5 of the population doesn't use the net is its almost impossible and fairly pointless if you're functionally illiterate.

        Wait, you're telling me 1/5 of the internet using population isn't functionally illiterate?

      • Re:50% of people... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Sunday April 15, 2012 @04:09PM (#39695201)

        I prefer Miss South Carolina's explaination of why 20% of Americans aren't on the internet:

        “I personally believe, that U.S. Americans, are unable to do so, because uh, some, people out there, in our nation don’t have computers. and uh...I believe that our education like such as in South Africa, and the Iraq, everywhere like such as...and, I believe they should uh, our education over here, in the U.S. should help the U.S. or should help South Africa, and should help the Iraq and Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future, for us.”

    • 50% of people...

      ...are by definition below average intelligence.

      True of the median, not of the mean. If you measure intelligence by IQ, which is designed so that the mean is 100 and the standard deviation is 15, it is perfectly possible that over 50% of the population scores above the mean. Or below it.

      • The distribution of IQ is defined (in modern tests anyway) as a normal distribution--the median is 100 w/ a sd of 15, and the median is equal to the mean. It is not even slightly possible to have over 50% on either side of the mean.

        • But the GP said that we might not have average and median intelligence coincide, which is different from having average and median IQ scores coincide.

    • by toejam13 ( 958243 ) on Sunday April 15, 2012 @02:35PM (#39694609)

      I agree. I think that the huge influx of laypersons onto the Internet has been both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, having more people of all social, economic and education backgrounds has encouraged a more rounded environment. It has allowed websites to flourish which otherwise may have been little more than a niche sites back when it was mostly university geeks and researchers. But on the other, we have a subset of people who are more open to scams, who place a larger burden on support resources and who are unable to deal with issues such as compromised computers infected with Trojan horses.

      But the bigger and darker issue is that the Internet is much more about user feedback than at any time before. It is a place where every voice and opinion can receive an equal audience. What happens when you have millions of uneducated riff-raff joining in the conversation, especially when the topic is political in nature? It often drags the quality of the conversation down. You end up with people parroting their worldviews rather than thinking about the subject at hand. Unless that environment is heavily moderated, it will end up sullied.

      As to the groups of people who are underrepresented on the Internet, I'm relieved that is the case. While some of them may begin to change their worldviews from being exposed to more ideas, I think the benefit to society would be greatly outweighed by the damage such people would cause. But the genie is already out of the bottle. Costs will continue to drop and more services will simply require Internet access in order to procure them. Internet penetration will continue to climb. I think that it is inevitable that everyone will have access, and we as a society will just have to adapt to it, for better or worse.

  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot.hackish@org> on Sunday April 15, 2012 @01:54PM (#39694359)

    If you remove the single largest factor for non-adoption (age), the rates are generally pretty high, and the other factors mentioned make less difference. That's why I wish these surveys focused more on multi-factor analysis instead of these easy-to-do but less-useful analyses where you just pull out single factors. Sure, people with lower incomes are less likely to be online, and people with lower educational attainment are less likely to be online, but those two factors also correlate strongly, and matter differently for different age cohorts. Which factors have independent effects after controlling for the others? That's the kind of analysis that would be more helpful...

    So yes, 22% of Americans don't use the internet. But a large proportion of those are over 65: in that age group, 69% of people don't use the internet. That's just generational change.

    If we look at young people, age 18-29, a full 94% use the internet. There is probably some education/income effect in there, but a much weaker one: only 6% of total young people, even including the poorest and least educated in the statistics, don't use the internet.

    Note also that educational attainment isn't separate from the age effect, because going to college used to be less common in my grandfather's generation than it is today, so there are some confounds baked into those numbers, too.

    In short: Where are the goddamn crosstabs?!?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by OzPeter ( 195038 )

      If you remove the single largest factor for non-adoption (age), the rates are generally pretty high

      so you're suggesting Logan's Run [] as a solution to improving the rate of internet usage?
      Who are you? some kinda liberal/commie/lefty who embraces Obamacare and is just itching for the death panels to get up and running?

    • You might want to watch the stereotyping. I'm the (volunteer) webmaster for a fairly affluent community of 2,000 or so mostly retired people. We require registration for our website to keep community information away from outsiders like Google and spammers. I personally approve each registration after verifying residence status. At the moment we have about half our community registered; around 250 are on the site weekly, another 100 or so lees frequently, and another 200 occasionally. My site does make prov
  • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Sunday April 15, 2012 @01:57PM (#39694377)

    I've got family that live out in the country, and their dial-up service was so slow and noisy that they could only reach 14.4Kbps for 5 minutes at a time. Naturally they dropped service and haven't tried it since.

    • by Salgak1 ( 20136 )
      Exactly. Income is not the only determinant: geography is a major factor. And in less-developed areas, broadband capability disappears quickly as you depart the city or town limits. As a personal example, I spent several years living in a small town in West Virginia. We actually checked with the local broadband provider BEFORE we signed an agreement to buy: 2 of the homes we preferred were beyond range of the local provider: our only other choices were dial-up or Satellite. Both houses were within 2 mil
    • Yes, the crap quality phone lines are a huge issue for those of us in outlying areas without broadband options. I relocated to such an area last December, and my average connection speed hovers between 1.5 and 5.2 kbps. It's painful, and I can see how the average person simply wouldn't bother. Using a smartphone isn't much better when you're more than 4 miles from the nearest tower, either. AT&T took all that tax money 2 or 3 years ago to "rollout broadband to rural residents", but they haven't done a d
    • Agreed. I'm in the Scottish Highlands and we get anything from 15 to 128Kb/s. Ironically that's fine, because I work in web programming so it's mostly just text files and low res images, but for a "normal" person expecting to watch videos and read your average Flash-filled website it's going to be frustrating at best. (And before anyone suggests tethering a mobile, there's no mobile reception at all)
  • I get all the gossip I need from my neighbors, bartenders, and hair stylist

  • Given that most of the people who are "permanently offline" are people aged 65 or over, who are simply too old the learn the ins & outs of the often times complex & confounding interwebs, maybe there should be a project to create a kind of "Eldernet" for older people? This would be an alternative, simplified internet with bigger text & images, text-to-speech functionality (for those who are vision impaired), much simpler navigation & search (maybe voice-commands like "how much does a lawncha
    • by Salgak1 ( 20136 )
      The net is the net. What you think of as the "Eldernet" should really be a simplified client/OS aimed at Seniors. Think about what Microsoft tried for, and utterly failed at, with MS Bob. []. Someone TRIED doing this on an all-in-one-platform with the "Telkin PC for Seniors" [], but failed on both a UI and a cost perspective. It was way too expensive for what it delivered, and both lacked essential functionality AND defacto "talked down" to its' users. . . . .
      • The "Eldernet" I had in mind would make use of existing Internet infrastructure. An "Eldernet" certified website, however, would be visually simple, with larger text, easy to understand, and easier to get around (think site-navigation) than a regular webpage. A simplified browser/PC UI on its own wouldn't quite do the trick. The websites themselves would have to be designed for older people as well. The closest thing I've seen to a "Older User Friendly" computer is the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1" Android table
    • Maybe you can sell the concept to what's left of AOL.
  • Were they included? Most everyone i know in ALL economic segments have one.. and those are "online".

  • Only 44% of the residences which can get cable TV actually buy it. [] In comparison, 68% of US households have broadband access. [] (3% are still on dialup.) That's impressive reach for an industry that barely existed a decade ago.

    Bear in mind that a significant fraction of the US population barely reads. 14% of the US adult population has "below basic literacy skills." [] They are not likely to find a computer very useful. Another 15% of Internet penetration and everyone who can read will be connected.

    Measured by a different study, the most connected major countries are at 80%, +- 2%. The US and Japan are at 78%, Germany is at 80%, Korea is at 81%, and the UK is at 82%.

  • >> One in five of those who are not online today think that they just don’t know enough about technology to use the Internet on their own.'"

    Curious, in that you can make the same statement regarding genitalia and birth control.

I've got a bad feeling about this.