Internet Use Continues to Pervade U.S. Life

If you’re still nursing your dot-bomb hangover, you may not have noticed that the number of Internet users in the United States is still growing, and it’s also diversifying. As for the next generation of adults with spending power, practically all of this year’s college grads go online.

Minorities and retirees are going online in significant numbers, according to The Media Audit, a syndicated survey of both online and traditional media in more than 80 markets.

“What we’re seeing in the latest research are the late arrivals,” said Bob Jordan, co-chairman of the The Media Audit. “Initially the Web audience was populated by the young, affluent and well educated. What we’re seeing now is the arrival of the less affluent and less educated. We’re also seeing minority participation rising sharply. Senior citizens and homemakers are also joining the Web audience at an impressive rate.”

The Media Audit’s research is based on more than 350,000 phone interviews during l998, l999 and 2000 and is not based on a traditional national sample.

Although the number of men age 18 and over using the Internet increased by 26 percent during the past three years, the group declined by more than 5 percent as a percentage of the total Web audience. Women increased their presence on the Web by 44 percent since l998 and now make up more than 48 percent of the total Web audience.

Forty-four percent of African-American households are now on the Web, an increase of 41 percent during the past three years. Among Hispanic households, 42 percent are now on the Web, according to The Media Audit, an increase of 45 percent. Asians were quick to embrace the Web with more than 63 percent logging on in l998 and more than 70 percent in 2000. Seventy percent exceeds the comparable figure for white households visiting the Web, which is just over 58 percent.

Almost 25 percent of retired households are on the Web, an increase of 84 percent since l998. Households occupied by those age 50 or over, both retired and not retired, increased their presence on the Web from almost 25 percent to more than 37 percent, an increase of more than 51 percent in three years.

More than 43 percent of homemakers are now on the Web — a three-year increase of 80 percent. Blue collar workers increased from 29 percent in l998 to 44 percent in 2000, an overall increase of 52 percent. Working women increased their presence by 37 percent, moving up from 46 percent in l998 to 63 percent in 2000. Working mothers recorded similar increases, from 44 percent in l998 to 63 percent in 2000, an increase of 43 percent. Single parents increased from 35 percent to 49 percent, an increase of 40 percent.

The Spring Cyber Stats report from Mediamark Research Inc. found that Internet use among those ages 55 to 64 grew to 43 percent in the past six months, from 36 percent six months ago and 31 percent 18 months ago. The most common activity on the Internet among consumers 55 to 64 is email, use of which by Americans ages 55 to 64 has increased by 20 percent. Compared to 18 months ago, there has been a 46 percent increase in email use among Americans ages 55-64.

Approximately 133 million U.S. adults — 66 percent of the adult population — have access to the Internet either at work or home, according to Mediamark. Of those 133 million, 101 million reported using the Internet in the past 30 days. This means that 50 percent of U.S. adults, who total 201.7 million, used the Internet in the past 30 days. Ninety million U.S. adults reported using at least one online service (such as America Online, CompuServe, MSN and Prodigy) in the last 30 days.

Mediamark’s Spring Cyber Stats data were collected between March of 2000 and April of 2001.

Seeing the Internet become a part of everyday life for Americans of varying ages and backgrounds solidifies its potential as a medium for content, communication and commerce. But an even more encouraging sign looms on the horizon. Among college graduates from the class of 2001, the next group of consumers to have spending power, Internet use is ubiquitous.

A survey by Harris Interactive, commissioned by Northwestern Mutual and conducted among a nationally representative cross section of 2,001 graduates, found that while two-thirds of the United States can claim to be online, nearly 100 percent of the class of 2001 can make the claim.

The Internet usage of the class of 2001 has nearly doubled since they were freshmen, from an average of 6 hours per week to 11 hours. Four out of five students turn on their computers instead of the radio (57 percent) or TV (55 percent) to get their news and information. Print media such as newspapers and magazines, meanwhile, are the least favored (37 percent and 39 percent, respectively) sources of news and information.

The Internet is also the preferred method of communicating with the world. Nine out of 10 students send and receive emails on a daily or frequent basis, compared with only 13 percent who write letters by hand. More than half (54 percent) have visited the career-planning Web site monster.com, and significant numbers have frequented other career sites.

Finally, while nearly half (46 percent) of the Americans who access the Internet are very concerned about the privacy and security of their online activities, only 23 percent of the class of 2001 students share this concern.

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