The Online Battle of the Sexes

As the gender gap narrows on the Internet, demographic differences hold more sway. The Pew Internet & American Life Project‘s report, “How Women and Men Use the Internet,” finds online behavior differences between the two genders.

Since 2002, the percentage of online users has increased for both men and women. Male online users increased from 61 percent in 2002 to 68 percent in 2005. The percentage of women online in 2002 was 57 percent; by 2005 the number increased to 66 percent. Though the percentage of male Internet users is consistently higher, the actual number of women online is higher because there are more women than men in the U.S.

Age skews the gender gap. Young women, ages 18-29, are more likely to go online than men of the same age group. Eighty-six percent of the female group uses the Internet, compared to 80 percent of young males.

The statistics are flipped among older adults in the over 65 group. Thirty-four percent of older men use the Web, compared to 21 percent of women in the same age group.

“The technology is not a stopper [with young women] as with older women,” said Deborah Fallows, research fellow at Pew.

Race is another demographic that sees a gender gap. White men are more likely to use the Web: 70 percent of white men and 67 percent of white women regularly going online. The percentage has increased for both sexes since 2002; 62 percent of white men and 58 percent of white women were online three years ago.

The percentage of African-American women outnumbers African-American men online. Sixty percent of black women use the Web, compared to 50 percent of black men. In 2002, only 46 percent of black women and 48 percent of black men used the Web.

“There has been a dramatic uptick in black women going online,” said Fallows of the increase over the past three years. “As a social commentary, it fits right in with what you’re seeing in society.”

English-speaking Hispanic women make up a fairly equal portion of the Web population. From 2002 to 2005, the percentage of online women in this group increased from 56 percent to 66 percent. Men from the English-speaking Hispanic community increased from 59 percent online three years ago to 67 percent this year.

Married couples are more likely to go online than their single counterparts. Seventy-five percent of married or living-as-married women use the Internet compared to 56 percent of single women. Men mirror the statistic; 72 percent of married and living-as-married men are online, and only 62 percent of single men use the Internet. Having children increases the propensity to go online. This is where gender loses its influence; 80 percent of parents with children under 18 use the Web compared to 60 percent of those without children under the age of 18.

Data used in the report were compiled from surveys conducted in 2002 and 2005. The former survey group consisted of 14,416 respondents. The later surveys were conducted throughout the first six months of 2005 with a total survey group of 6,043 respondents.

Demographics of Male and Female Internet Users, 2005 (%)
Men Women
Online overall 68 66
18-29 80 86*
30-49 76 79
50-64 63 66
65 and older 34* 21
No high school diploma 32 27
High school 58 56
Some college 79 79
College graduate or graduate degree 89 89
White 70* 67
Hispanic 67 66
Black 50 60*
Other 72 66
Annual Household Income
Less than $30,000 49 48
$30,000-$50,000 66 76*
$50,000-$75,000 84 87
Greater than $75,000 90 95*
Marital status
Married 72 75
Not married 62* 56
Parental status
Parent of child(ren) under 18 81 80
Non-parent of child(ren) under 18 61* 57
1. N=6,403. Margin of error±2%.
2. * represents statistically significant difference.
Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2005
Intensity of Internet Use by Sex, 2005
Time Online Percentage of Online Men Percentage of Online Women Date of PIP Survey
More than an hour during a typical day’s sessions 50 45 September 2005
About an hour 20 24 September 2005
Up to one hour 30 31 September 2005
Log-On Frequency
Several a times/day 44* 39 All 2005
Daily 21 22 All 2005
1-5 times a week 23 28* All 2005
Every few weeks or less often 7 8 All 2005
Online on a typical day 61 57 All 2005
Log on from home 89 87 All 2005
Among workers, log on from work 65 66 All 2005
Connection Type
High-speed at work 78* 69 All 2005
High-speed at home 52* 48 All 2005
Dial-up at work 13 12 All 2005
Dial-up at home 45 49 All 2005
Don’t know what kind of access is used at work 6 16* All 2005
Note: * indicates a statistically significant difference.
Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2005

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