Higher Income Equals Higher Tech Usage Rates

November 29, 2010

Higher-income Americans have higher rates of internet and other technology usage than Americans of lower incomes, according to new data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Almost All Higher-income Americans Use Web

pew-research-internet-tools-by-income-nov10.gifSome 95% of Americans who live in households earning $75,000 or more a year use the internet at least occasionally, compared with 70% of those living in households earning less than $75,000. Even among those who use the internet, the well-off are more likely than those with less income to use technology. Of those 95% of higher-income internet users:

  • 99% use the internet at home, compared with 93% of the internet users in lower brackets.
  • 93% of higher-income home internet users have some type of broadband connection compared to 85% of the internet users who live in households earning less than $75,000 per year. That translates into 87% of all those in living in better-off households having broadband at home.
  • 95% of higher-income households own some type of cell phone compared with 83% in households with less income.

Income Gap Applies to Other Tech Use

Higher-income Americans are also more likely than those in lesser-income households to own a variety of information and communications gear:

  • 79% of those living in households earning $75,000 or more own desktop computers, compared with 55% of those living in less well-off homes.
  • 79% of those living in higher-income households own laptops, compared with 47% of those living in less well-off homes.
  • 70% of those living in higher-income households own iPods or other MP3 players, compared with 42% of those living in less well-off homes.
  • 54% of those living in higher-income households own game consoles, compared with 41% of those living in less well-off homes.
  • 12% of those living in higher-income households own e-book readers such as Kindles, compared with 3% of those living in less well-off homes.
  • 9% of those living in higher-income households own tablet computers such as iPads, compared with 3% of those living in less well-off homes.

Wealthier Engage More in E-Commerce

pew-research-ecommerce-activities-by-income-nov10.gifSignificantly more higher-income Americans are conducting e-commerce activities than members of other income groups. Solid majorities of higher-income internet users research products (88%), make travel reservations online (83%), purchase products or services online (81%), perform online banking (74%), use the internet to pay bills (71%), and use online classified sites such as Craigslist (60%).

Wealth Linked to Online Govt. Service Usage

Fully 82% of internet users (representing 61% of all American adults) looked for information or completed a transaction on a government website between December 2008 and December 2009, according to an earlier study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. However, high-income internet users are much more likely than those with lower levels of income to interact with government via online channels.

For example, 91% of internet users earning $50,000 or more a year get information or complete transactions on government websites, compared to 76% of those earning less than $50,000 a year. The largest disparity by income exists in the practice of going online for data about government activities. Fifty percent of internet users earning $50,000 or more a year do so, compared to only 31% of internet users earning less than $50,000 a year.

About the Data: The findings in this report come from three surveys by the Pew Internet Project conducted in late 2009 and 2010.

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