Americans Increase Internet Use in 2000

The number of American adults with Internet access increased by 16 million during the last six months of 2000, as women, minorities, and families with modest incomes continued to surge online, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

In all, Pew estimates that more than 104 million adults had access to the Internet at the end of 2000, compared to the more than 168 million people who had Web access from either home or work in January 2001, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.

The Pew Internet Project’s report “More Online, Doing More” also calculated the number of American children with online access. In all, 45 percent of those under 18 are connected to the Internet, which translates into more than 30 million children. Almost three-quarters of those in middle school and high school (ages 12 to 17) have access; and 29 percent of those under 12 go online.

“There has been so much attention focused on the woes of dot-com firms in recent months, that many might have lost sight of the fact that the appeal of getting access to the Internet is still very strong,” said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet Project. “We see substantial increases in Internet penetration across the board and that is changing the character of the Internet population. Every day, it looks more and more like the rest of America.”

Pew’s analysis comes from two surveys: one in May and June of 4,606 Americans (2,277 of whom have Internet access) and one in November and December of 3,493 Americans (2,038 of whom have Internet access). The margin of error in the surveys is plus or minus three percentages points.

Among the report’s findings:

  • 56 percent of American adults have Internet access.
  • On a typical day at the end of 2000, 58 million Americans were logging on — an increase of 9 million people in the daily Internet population from mid-year.
  • There are notable increases in Internet access among women, minorities, those from households with incomes between $30,000 and $50,000, and parents with children living at home. Those groups are also a bigger proportion of the daily users of the Internet.
  • On a typical day, more people were sending email, getting news, and browsing for fun than were doing so at mid-year.
  • In the last half of 2000, there were sharp increases in the number of online Americans who have used the Web to pursue their hobbies (an increase of 20 million users), buy products (an increase of 14 million), and browse for fun (an increase of 15 million).

Growing numbers of middle-aged Internet users, blacks, and Hispanics increased their use of the Internet to get hobby information; there was also a large spike in the number of online blacks who have made purchases online; the proportion of middle-aged Internet users who seek health information online grew rapidly; there was a jump among those without much formal education who use the Internet for work-related research; and an increasing number of online Hispanics sought financial information on the Web.

The end of the election and its disputed aftermath sent many Internet users to Internet news sources. On a typical day at the end of the year, 17 percent of Internet users got political news and information online — double the number who were getting such news on a typical day in October.

The Pew Internet Project’s report also found that the Digital Divide is still very much in existence when it comes to age and income. Older Americas are much less likely to have Internet access than younger Americans; poorer Americans are much less likely to have access than richer Americans.

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