More Money = More Surfing

The digital divide has not disappeared, as research reveals a correlation between household income and Internet usage, with high earners spending the most time online.

The Capital region of the United States — composed of Maryland, Virginia, and Washington DC — has the greatest percentage of affluent Internet users, with nearly 36 percent earning an annual household income over $75,000, followed by New England (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, Maine, and New Hampshire) at just over 35 percent. The findings come from a Pew Internet & American Life Project study that analyzed the nation’s online population and regionally categorized users.

While the Capital region has the highest number of high-income Internet surfers, the Pacific Northwest (Oregon and Washington) has the greatest percentage of under $30,000 per year users. Interestingly, when Pew analyzed online tenure, the two regions ranked the highest for Internet users with more than three years online experience.

Nationally, and in most of the regions, the highest income earners represent the largest online population. The exceptions are the Industrial Midwest, the Border States, the South, Southeast, and Midwest, where the $30,000 to $50,000 annual income range boasts the most Internet users.


Online Population by Annual Household Income
Under
$30,000
$30,000 –
$50,000
$50,000 –
$75,000
Over
$75,000
Refused
California 18.8% 19.9% 14.6% 30.8% 15.9%
Mid-Atlantic
PA, NJ, DE, NY
17.6% 22.0% 18.9% 25.1% 16.5%
Industrial Midwest
IL, IN, OH, MI
15.3% 25.5% 18.9% 23.2% 17.0%
Mountain
CO, UT, ID, NV,
WY, MT
15.7% 22.8% 22.9% 23.9% 14.7%
Capital Region
MD, VA, DC
12.6% 16.4% 18.3% 35.8% 16.8%
New England
CT, MA, VT, RI,
ME, NH
13.9% 17.8% 17.4% 35.1% 15.9%
Border States
TX, NM, AZ
17.9% 27.2% 14.0% 24.2% 16.7%
South
TN, AL, MS, LA,
WV, KY, AK
21.7% 26.1% 17.2% 20.9% 14.1%
Southeast
FL, GA, NC, SC
20.7% 24.6% 16.1% 25.7% 13.0%
Upper Midwest
MN, ND, SD, WI
18.4% 20.9% 21.8% 24.5% 14.4%
Midwest
MO, NE, KS, OK,
IA
18.6% 27.9% 20.0% 20.8% 12.7%
Pacific Northwest
OR, WA
25.6% 23.2% 17.6% 20.4% 13.1%
NATIONAL 18.3% 23.2% 17.7% 25.3% 15.4%
Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project

Measurements from comScore Media Metrix further revealed the link between Internet usage and household income, with those earning above $100,000 annually spending the most time online and viewing the most pages.


U.S. Internet Users by Household Income August 2003, Home,
Work and University Users
Internet Users Average Usage
Time per Month
Average Pages
Viewed per Month
$15,000 – $24,999 11,422,000 23.3 hrs 2,292
$25,000 – $39,999 18,144,000 26.4 hrs 2,526
$40,000 – $59,999 37,719,000 26.4 hrs 2,670
$60,000 – $74,999 23,206,000 26.4 hrs 2,577
$75,000 – $99,999 24,654,000 27.5 hrs 2,636
$100,000 or more 25,793,000 27.6 hrs 2,964
Total Internet Users 148,811,000 26.5 hrs 2,648
Source: comScore Media Metrix

comScore’s August analysis also revealed:

  • Nearly 84 percent of Internet users with a household income of $100,000 or more visited a retail site.
  • Americans with household incomes of $100,000 or more are 20 percent more likely to visit a Travel site than the average Internet user. More than half (54 percent) of affluent Internet users visited a travel site, compared to 47 percent of the total Internet population.
  • Affluent Internet users are 10 percent more likely to visit news sites than the average Internet user, as 61 percent of the high income users visited a site in the general news category.

Traffic intelligence information from Hitwise supports the link between income and Internet usage. Analysis of over 150 of the Hitwise U.S. business and market oriented categories shows that the bulk of the September 2003 visitors came from households with annual incomes greater than $75,000, at nearly 36 percent.

Those earning between $50,000 and $75,000 were responsible for more than 22 percent of the monthly traffic; households in the $35,000 to $50,000 income range accounted for nearly 17 percent; $25,000 to $35,000 = over 10 percent; $15,000 to $25,000 = just over 7 percent; and households below $15,000 comprised a little more than 6 percent of the September 2003 Internet traffic.

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