The report says that in the 12-month period ending in April 2004, Internet and online users increased by just 1.7% of the adult population over the same period a year earlier; this compares to an 11.3% increase between 1999 and 2000. "These and related MRI data indicate that claims of the continued explosive growth of the Internet are grossly exaggerated," said Andy Arthur, VP of Client Services at MRI.
At the beginning of the first period described above, Internet users were disproportionately young (mean age 37.3 versus an adult mean age of 44.2) and male (58.0%). They were well-educated (49.8% college grads, compared to 20.7% of the general adult population) and upper-income (67.7% with household income of $50,000 or more versus 35.2% of the general population).
Within the second period, the most pronounced compositional change was that women closed the gap with men, accounting for 50.9% of Internet users by the spring of 2000. Beginning with the Spring 2002 MRI release, growth among the highest-usage groups (the young, up-market segments) appears to have reached a saturation point-with usage levels of those aged 18-24, those with household incomes of $150,000 or more and those with post-graduate degrees all having gone flat.
For the future there are two functionally distinct groups among Internet non-users. Internet "Resistors" currently represent 16.5% of all U.S. adults, have access to the Internet but do not use it, and have stubbornly represented 20% of all adults with Internet access since MRI began measuring access to the medium.
The second group, the "Unconnected," have no access anywhere. Traditionally, it has been conversion of the unconnected, now only 20.4% of the adult population, that has fueled the growth of the Internet-using population.
"The nature of these Internet holdouts means that future Internet growth, if it materializes, will probably be driven by those who are lower-income, older and more ethnically diverse," said Arthur. "While the median age for the general adult population is 43.9, resistors have a median age of 51.5, and the unconnected, 55.3. Substantial growth in the Internet-using population is unlikely to resume without cheaper Internet connections, more Spanish-language Internet provider services and, perhaps most important, compelling new reasons for non-users to switch sides."
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