Who Isn’t Online? New Pew Survey Explains Why Some Stay Off the Internet

Blacks account for one in five people who never go online

(Image: istock by Getty Images)
(Image: istock by Getty Images)

While it’s hard to imagine, today, 15% of U.S. adults do not use the Internet, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of survey data.

Among that 15%, one in five blacks and 18% of Hispanics don’t use the Internet, compared with 14% of whites and only 5% of English-speaking Asian Americans—the racial or ethnic group least likely to be offline. Seniors are the group most likely to say they never go online. About four in 10 adults ages 65 and older (39%) don’t use the Internet, compared with only 3% of 18 to 29-year-olds.

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But that 15% figure is substantially lower than in 2000, when Pew Research first began to study the social impact of technology. That year, nearly half (48%) of American adults did not use the Internet.

The latest Pew Research analysis shows that Internet non-adoption is correlated to a number of demographic variables, including age, educational attainment, household income, race and ethnicity, and community type.

The 2013 Pew Research survey found that some key reasons people didn’t use the Internet was that they had no interest in doing so or did not think the Internet was relevant to their lives. Another 32% of non-Internet users said the Internet was too difficult to use, including 8% of this group who said they were “too old to learn.” Cost was also a barrier for some adults who were offline. Nineteen percent cited the expense of Internet service or buying a computer.

Over time, the offline population has been shrinking and, for some groups, that change has been especially dramatic. For example, 86% of adults 65 and older did not go online in 2000. Today that figure has been cut in half. And among those without a high school diploma, the percentage not using the Internet dropped from 81% to 33% in the same time period.

A study published in May finds that tablets can break down some of the barriers that keep the elderly offline. According to Futurity, an organization that provides research news from universities, in addition to being smaller, lighter, and more portable, tablets allow people to maneuver online without having to move and click a mouse.