Disparities in Internet access persist for poorer, non-white Americans, but gaps closing

Americans with historically lower rates of Internet access are making progress in getting online, but there are still persistent disparities between rich and poor, and between English-speaking Asians and other ethnicities, according to data from the Pew Research Center released today.

Roughly three-quarters of American households making less than $30,000 a year are online, compared to fully 97% of those making $75,000 and up. A similar 97% figure was found for English-speaking Asian households, compared to 81% for Hispanic households and 78% for those of non-Hispanic black people. (The number for white households was 85%.)

There were, in addition, disparities based on age and education level in Pew's survey data, which showed that younger people and the more educated were substantially more likely to be online than older and less well-educated people.

The long-standing split between urban and rural rates of Internet access was still in evidence as well, but it, along with most of the other gaps, has begun to close. In 2000, 42% of rural Americans were online, compared to 56% of urban residents, but the most recent data shows that those figures are now 78% and 85%, respectively -- cutting the gap in half. Similarly, the racial, economic and educational disparities have all closed substantially over the first 15 years of the 21st Century.

Maeve Duggan, a research associate, said in a statement accompanying the release of the survey that there were two main trends evident from the data.

"The first is that the groups traditionally leading the way in tech adoption -- the young, highly educated and relatively well off -- are now nearly all internet users," she said. "The second is that groups traditionally less likely to be early adopters have steadily increased their Internet use. Especially in recent years, the rate of adoption has been particularly rapid."

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