An estimated 78.1 percent of people in U.S. households had a high-speed Internet connection last year, according to a new report released today from the U.S. Census Bureau. However, digital divides exist among the nation’s metropolitan areas and demographic groups.
These statistics come from the American Community Survey, which collected data on this topic for the first time in 2013 and is the largest survey used to examine computer and Internet use in the U.S.
Although most Americans have access to computers and high-speed Internet, differences in high-speed Internet use were as large as 25 percentage points between certain age and race groups, while divides between specific income and educational attainment groups were as large as 45 percentage points. In addition, among the nation’s metro areas, Boulder, Colo., had one of the highest rates of high-speed Internet use at 96.9, while Laredo, Texas, had one of the lowest rates at 69.3 percent.
The report released today, Computer and Internet Use in the United States: 2013, includes analysis of household computer ownership and Internet use by age, sex, race and Hispanic origin, income and education. It covers areas of the country with populations larger than 65,000.
“These new statistics show how the American Community Survey gives communities the information they need on both computer and Internet access for their residents,” Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson said. “As the Census Bureau continues to move more surveys online to reduce respondent burden, these statistics inform us of areas that have high and low Internet use. These statistics also provide the information communities and federal agencies need to make decisions to improve and expand broadband Internet access for all Americans.”
The report shows that 75.2 percent of metropolitan area households reported high-speed Internet use, compared with 63.1 percent of nonmetropolitan households. In addition, 85.1 percent of metropolitan households reported owning a computer, compared with 76.5 percent of nonmetro households.
“In the past we’ve only been able to look at computer and Internet use patterns down to the state level, but with this new research we can actually start to understand what’s happening in American cities,” said Thom File, a Census Bureau sociologist and the report’s author. “As computing technologies continue to evolve and become more central in American life, it’s increasingly important to understand where disparities and divides exist across the country. These new statistics allow us to do exactly that.”
Some states, such as California, Florida and Washington, had a variety of high and low performing areas within their borders, often very near one another. California, for example, had rates of computer ownership and high-speed Internet use above the national average. However, certain parts of the state, specifically those in the San Francisco Bay Area (including Napa, San Francisco and San Jose), had high percentages of computer ownership and high-speed Internet use, while metropolitan areas in the nearby Central Valley (including Bakersfield, Fresno and Hanford) had significantly lower estimates on both indicators.
|Bay Area Metropolitan Areas||Computer Use||Internet Use|
|Central Valley Metropolitan Areas||Computer Use||Internet Use|
Computer ownership and Internet use were most common in the following types of households:
In addition to the report released today, a series of detailed and profile tables about computer ownership and Internet use are available on the Census Bureau’s website at census.gov.
As part of the 2008 Broadband Data Improvement Act, Congress mandated that the Census Bureau begin asking about computer and Internet use in the American Community Survey. Federal agencies will use these statistics to measure the nationwide development of broadband networks and to allocate resources intended to increase access to broadband technologies, particularly among groups with traditionally low levels of access. State and local governments will use these statistics for similar purposes, and businesses and nonprofits will use the information to better serve their communities as well.
As the part of the Department of Commerce, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) maintains the National Broadband Map, a public database of information on broadband Internet availability in the United States.
In addition to information on computer usage and Internet access, the Census Bureau also provides detailed information on U.S. computer manufacturing, Internet service providers, computer sales and repair, and related business data in the economic census. Detailed data on computer imports and exports are also available in our international trade statistics.
The American Community Survey provides a wide range of important statistics about all communities in the country. The American Community Survey gives communities the current information they need to plan investments and services. Retailers, homebuilders, police departments, and town and city planners are among the many private- and public-sector decision makers who count on these annual results. Visit the Stats in Action page to see some examples.
Ever since Thomas Jefferson directed the first census in 1790, the census has collected detailed characteristics about our nation's people. Questions about jobs and the economy were added 20 years later under James Madison, who said [PDF 3.9 MB] such information would allow Congress to "adapt the public measures to the particular circumstances of the community," and over the decades allow America "an opportunity of marking the progress of the society."
Note: Statistics from sample surveys are subject to sampling and nonsampling error. All comparisons made in this report have been tested and found to be statistically significant at the 90 percent confidence level, unless otherwise noted. Please consult the tables for specific margins of error. For more information, go to <www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/technical-documentation.html>.
Changes in survey design from year to year can affect results. See <www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/news/data-releases.2013.html> for more information on changes affecting the 2013 statistics. See <www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/guidance/comparing-acs-data/2013.html> for guidance on comparing 2013 American Community Survey statistics with previous years.