U.S. Internet Population Continues to Grow

Internet use in the United States is growing at a rate of 2 million new Internet users each month, according to a study by the U.S. Government.

The study, “A Nation Online: How Americans Are Expanding Their Use of the Internet”, published by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Economics and Statistics Administration, found that 143 million Americans (54 percent of the population) used the Internet in September 2001. That’s a 26 percent increase over August 2000. Even more Americans, 174 million, use computers.

Children and teenagers are the most likely to use the Internet and computers. Ninety percent of children between the ages of 5 and 17 (48 million) now use computers, the study found. Three-quarters of 14 to 17-year-olds and 65 percent of 10 to 13-year-olds use the Internet. It’s no surprise, then, that households with children under age 18 are more likely to have Internet access than those without children (62 percent versus 53 percent).

Dial-up access is still the norm for most Americans that access the Internet, with 80 percent of residential Internet using dial-up. But the survey found that from August 2000 to September 2001, residential use of broadband Internet access doubled from 4 percent to 11 percent of all individuals, and from 11 to 20 percent of Internet users.

The most popular use for the Internet is still email, which is used by 45 percent of the overall population, up from 35 percent in 2000. According to the study, approximately one-third of Americans use the Internet to search for products and service information (36 percent, up from 26 percent in 2000). Among Internet users, 39 percent are making online purchases and 35 percent are searching for health information.

The study also offers evidence that use of the Internet and computers has spread from work to the home. Approximately 24 million of the 65 million employed adults who use a computer at their job also work on a computer at home. The presence in a household of someone who uses a computer at work makes it far more likely (by a margin of approximately 77 percent to 35 percent) that the household owns a computer or uses the Internet at home.

The government has also taken an interest in the so-called “digital divide” that separates technology haves and have-nots in the United States. The report presents some evidence that gap continues to close. From December 1998 to September 2001, Internet use by individuals in the lowest-income households (those earning less than $15,000 per year) increased at an annual growth rate of 25 percent. Internet use among individuals in the highest-income households (those earning $75,000 per year or more) increased from a higher base but at a much slower 11 percent annual growth rate.

Between August 2000 and September 2001, Internet use among blacks increased at annual rate of 33 percent, while Internet use by Hispanics increased at an annual rate of 30 percent. Whites and Asian-American/Pacific Islanders experienced annual growth rates of approximately 20 percent during these same periods.

From 1998 to 2001, Internet use among people living in rural households has grown at an annual rate of 24 percent, and the percentage of Internet users living in rural areas is nearly even with the national average (53 percent versus 54 percent).

The highest growth rate among different types of households is for single mothers at 29 percent.

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