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Census Bureau studies Americans’ Internet use


WASHINGTON – Feb. 4, 2014 – The U.S. Census Bureau started collecting information about computer use almost 30 years ago. In 1984, only 8.2 percent of households had a computer at home; by 2012, that number skyrocketed to almost 79 percent.

However, computer and smartphone use varies a great deal by age and demographic. Among all Americans, 45.3 percent of adults 25 and older were using smartphones in 2012 to send email (37.7%), browse the web (36.8%), use maps (29.6%), download apps (28.1%), use social media (26.2%), listen to music (25.1%), and play games (21.7%).

When the numbers are broken down by age or demographic, however, there are clear differences in computer use and smartphone use among generations and races.

Internet and smartphone use by age
25 to 34-year-old adults: 88.1% use the Internet; 70.6% use smartphones
35 to 44-year-old adults: 86.2% use the Internet; 62.3% use smartphones
45 to 64-year-old adults: 78.4% use the Internet; 40.2% use smartphones
65-plus aged adults: 53.1% use the Internet; 14.5% use smartphones

Internet and smartphone use by race
Asian Americans: 82.9% use the Internet; 52.6% use smartphones
White, non-Hispanic: 80.3% use the Internet; 44.6% use smartphones
Black Americans: 68.2% use the Internet; 45.0% use smartphones
Hispanic Americans: 64.0% use the Internet; 45.8% use smartphones

While almost 79 percent of Americans have a computer at home, a number do not have Internet access to go with it – only 74.8 percent do. That means about one in four Americans do not have either a computer or Internet access from home.

The reasons for living a low-tech life without Internet access vary. Of the 25.2 percent without at-home Internet access, 12.2 percent said they don’t want it; 7.5 percent said it’s too expensive; 2.8 percent said their computer is too old or inadequate; and the remaining 2.9% did not give a reason.

The Census Bureau posted an Infographic on its website with an overview of the study results.

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