Computer, Internet Use Up Among Americans

Computer use in the US has risen sharply, and use of the Internet is a big reason for the increase, according to a report by the Census Bureau.

The report “Computer Use in the United States: October 1997” was compiled from data collected from the 1997, 1993, and 1984 supplements to the Current Population Survey. It found that about one-half of the US population age 18 and over used computers in 1997, up from 36 percent in 1993, and 18 percent in 1984. One in five (57 million) citizens age 3 and older surfed the Internet in 1997, according to the report.

Internet Use in the US
Among adults
at home
Use Percent
E-mail or finding government, business,
health, or education information
News, weather or sports information 50%
Among children
at home
Finding government, business,
health, or education information
Send and receive email 58%
Participate in chat rooms 32%
News, weather or sports information 28%
Source: US Census Bureau

Nearly 92 million adults (47 percent) used a computer in one or more places: 64 million at work, 56 million at home, and 11 million at school. Of the adults who used computers at home, 71 percent did so for word processing. Other common uses included games (54 percent) and email and communication (45 percent).

About 80 percent who used the Internet at home used it for email or finding government, business, health, or education information. The next most common uses were looking for news, weather, and sports (50 percent); followed by checking schedules, buying tickets, or making reservations (25 percent).

Children who use the Internet at home used it to find government, business, health, or education information (76 percent); to send and receive email (58 percent); to participate in chat rooms (32 percent); and to look for news, weather, and sports (28 percent).

“Public school students in grades K-12 maintained parity with private school students in computer use at school in 1997,” said Census Bureau analyst Eric Newburger. “In each case, about 75 percent of the students used computers. Yet, at home, public school children had much lower rates of computer use than private school children.”

According to the report, half of all children had a computer at home compared with 32 percent in 1993. About 71 percent of children enrolled in school used a computer at school. Only 20 percent of children with family incomes under $25,000 lived in a household with a computer, while 88 percent of those with family incomes above $75,000 had a computer at home.

Among Adults Using the Internet at Home
Use Percent
Male Female
News, weather, or sports information 58% 41%
Newsgroups 21% 13%
Check schedules, bought
tickets, make reservations
27% 23%
Source: US Census Bureau

Of the 14 million children using the Internet, 9 million did so at school and 7 million at home. While 2 million children used the Internet at both home and school, more than half (7 million) of all children accessing the Internet used it only at school.

Among all children, regardless of computer ownership, 27 percent of those in households with family incomes above $75,000 used the Internet from home, compared with 2 percent of children in households with family incomes below $25,000. But for children from the highest income households (above $75,000), 20 percent used the Internet from school, compared with 12 percent from the lowest income households (below $25,000).

The report also found that half of employed adults used a computer on the job. Women used computers on the job more often than men, 57 percent versus 44 percent. Men and women used computers at work for different tasks. Sixty percent of women use them for word processing, compared to 54 percent of men. More men use computers for analysis (34 percent versus 20 percent for women) or programming (20 percent versus 11 percent).

Of the 43 million adults who used the Internet at home, school, or work, 28 million did so from home, 21 million from work, and 6 million from school. Men using the Internet at home were more likely than women to look for news, weather, or sports (58 percent versus 41 percent). Men more often than women looked at newsgroups (21 percent versus 13 percent) and men checked schedules, bought tickets or made reservations more frequently (27 percent versus 23 percent).

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