Who Isn’t Online? New Pew Survey Explains Why Some Stay Off the Internet
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

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.

[RELATED: PBS Documentary “Web Junkie” Chronicles Internet Addiction]

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.


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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, SocialWayne.com chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining BlackEnterprise.com as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and BlackEnterprise.com helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.

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