Internet Access | Research

Who Doesn't Use the Internet: the Elderly, the Poor, and the Uneducated

According to a new report released by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 15 percent of American adults do not use the Internet. Age, income level, and educational attainment were all strongly tied in with usage patterns.

The report, "Who's Not Online and Why," indicated that 19 percent of the non-Internet users surveyed cited the high cost of owning a computer or connecting to the Internet as the reason for living offline, amounting to about 3 percent of the total adult population.

The bulk of offliners, however, had other reasons. The breakdown is as follows (with "other" reasons totaling 7 percent):

  • 21 percent are "just not interested";
  • 13 percent don't have a computer;
  • 10 percent think it's too difficult or frustrating;
  • 8 percent said they lack the skills needed to use the Internet;
  • 8 percent said they're too old to learn;
  • 7 percent "don't have access";
  • 6 percent "don't need it" or "don't want it";
  • 6 percent said it's just too expensive;
  • 4 percent characterized Internet use as "a waste of time";
  • 4 percent are physically unable to connect;
  • 3 percent are too busy; and
  • 3 percent are worried about privacy.

It's worth noting that among these non-users, 23 percent live in a house in which another member of the family does have access to the Internet. Only 8 percent of those who do not use the Internet now said they would use it if they could; the remaining 92 percent are "not interested."

Pew noted that age, income, and educational attainment correlate strongly with Internet use.

Among those 65 and older, 44 percent do not use the Internet. They account for just about half (49 percent) of the offline adult population in America.

Among those without a high school diploma, 41 percent do not go online. Among those with only a high school diploma, 22 percent do not go online. Ninety-two percent of those with some college and 96 percent of those with a college degree are online.

Income correlated less strongly with Internet use, though the correlation was still evident among survey respondents: 24 percent of those who make less than $30,000 a year and 12 percent of those who make less than $50,000 per year do not use the Internet.

The complete report, including methodology, can be found on pewinternet.org.

About the Author

Executive Producer David Nagel heads up the editorial department for 1105 Media's education publications — which include two daily sites, a variety of newsletters and two monthly digital magazines covering technology in both K-12 and higher education.

A 21-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/profile/view?id=10390192 or follow him on Twitter at @THEJournalDave (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education). A selection of David Nagel's articles can be found on this site.


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