Sixty-two million U.S. households, or 55 percent of American homes, had a Web-connected computer in 2003, according to just-released U.S. Census data. That’s up from 50 percent in 2001, and more than triple 1997′s 18 percent figure.
Home Web use continues to skew toward more affluent, younger and educated demographics. Both computer ownership and Web use are lower in households comprised of seniors, among blacks and Hispanics and among households comprised of people with less than a high school education.
Conversely, nearly all households earning over $100,000 — 95 percent — own at least one computer, and 92 percent are online. In homes earning under $40,000, the online figure plummets to 41 percent.
Children have benefited enormously from the growth of home computing. In 1993, only 32 percent of children had access to a computer at home. In 2003, 76 percent of school aged children had access to a home computer, and 83 percent of America’s 57 million schoolchildren used a PC at school. Again, these figures skew when ethnic and economic criteria are applied.
In 1997, only 7 percent of adults said they used the Web to get news, weather and spots. That figure spiked to 40 percent in 2003. Those seeking government or health information grew to 33 percent from 12 percent in 1997, and over half (55 percent) used the Web for e-mail and instant messaging, up from 12 percent 10 years earlier. Eighteen percent banked online; 12 percent looked for a job; nearly half sought product and/or service information and 32 percent purchased online, a radical jump over 2.1 percent in 1993.
Of the 45 percent of households without Web access in 2003, the most common reasons given were: “don’t need it/not interested (39 percent); and costs too much” or “no computer/computer inadequate” (each 23 percent). Two percent cited Web access elsewhere. Issues of privacy, child safety and security concerns were rarely cited, each accounting for only one percent of the reasons.
Homes in the West are the most wired at 67 percent, closely followed by the Northeast and Midwest. Southern households had the lowest percentage of online computers at 52 percent.