Income And Age In The Country Holding Web Penetration Back

Income And Age In The Country Holding Web Penetration Back

A study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project finds that, while urban and suburban Internet penetration rates have risen, rural Internet penetration has remained roughly 10 percentage points behind the national average in each of the last four years.

In survey data collected in 2003, The Project found that suburban and urban residents remain more likely to use the Internet.
- 67% of urban residents use the Internet.
- 66% of suburban residents use the Internet.
- 52% of rural residents use the Internet.

Some differences in Internet adoption between rural areas and other locales are related to low-income households in rural areas, the report concludes. Living in a rural area in itself has little or no influence as to whether one goes online. While low-income residents of rural areas are less likely to be online than low-income people living in urban or suburban areas, middle and upper income people in both rural and other areas are equally likely to be Internet users.

Some of the gap between rural areas and the rest of the country can also be explained by other demographic realities such as the fact that rural residents as a group are older and have lesser levels of education than those in urban and suburban areas. Senior 65 and older account for 22% of the rural population compared to 14% of the the urban and 16% of the suburban populations In rural areas. Only about 17% of rural seniors go online, making up about 6% of rural Internet users. Meanwhile, rural areas hold comparatively fewer young adults, the most likely age group to go online. The age of the rural population may be one major reason why penetration rates are lower in rural communities.

In terms of typical online use, rural users:

  • are less likely to bank online
  • 28% bank online, while 35% of urban users and 35% of suburban users bank online.
  • are less likely to have bought a product online
  • 57% have done so, while 63% of suburban users and 61% of urban users have bought a product online.
  • are less likely to have made a travel reservation online
  • 49% have done so, while 58% of suburban users and 60% of urban users have made a travel reservation online.
  • are more likely than their counterparts to search for religious or spiritual information. Some 35% of online rural Americans have sought religious and spiritual information online, compared to 27% of those who live outside rural areas.
  • are more likely than others to seek health information online with three or more years experience online. Almost three-quarters of experienced rural users have done so, while 68% of similarly experienced suburban users and 64% of similarly experienced urban users have sought health information online.

More information in the report can be found here.

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