Home PC Usage Stagnates

The increase in computer and Internet usage at work has apparently left many Americans burnt out when it comes to using PCs at home, according to a Pathfinder Study by Arbitron NewMedia.

The study found that computers have become as popular as many home appliances, with home penetration nearly doubling from 29 percent in 1995 to 54 percent in 1999. The percentage of people with access to a home PC who actually use it has fallen from a high of 90 percent in 1995 to 53 percent today, however.

“This decline in actual usage is part of a trend we’ve been tracking for the last three years,” said Dr. Roberta McConochie, Arbitron NewMedia’s director of research. “Apparently, many consumers deal with PCs and other technologies all day at work. By the time they get home, many of these technology-weary users prefer to wind down and spend time with their families rather than interact with office-like PCs.”

The study also found that 70 percent of PC owners subscribe to Internet services at home — a fourfold increase over the 16 percent access rate in 1995. Home subscriptions do not guarantee home PC use. While 38 percent of US consumers currently report Internet subscriptions at home, only 24 percent actually use the Internet at home. In other words, nearly all of the 29 percent of people who use their PCs at home also use the Internet, but only two-thirds of the people who can use the Net at home actually do so.

The increase in home PC ownership is due, in large part, to first-time PC purchasers, according to the study. Since 1997, the percentage of consumers who have more than one PC at home has remained relatively unchanged; there has been only a 1 percent increase. Over the last two years, the largest gains in home PC purchases has been among low-to-middle income households as well as households with children.

The Pathfinder study of consumer behavior and new media preferences is based on national phone and mail surveys, which canvassed a total of 5,500 US consumers, age 16-74.

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