Computer, Net Access Standard for Many Americans

More than half of the households in the United States had one or more computers in 2000, and more than 80 percent of these households had at least one member using the Internet, according to the U.S. Commerce Department’s Census Bureau.

The Census Bureau found that 54 million households (51 percent of the nation’s households) had at least one computer in August 2000, an increase from 42 percent in December 1998.

“Since 1984, the country has experienced more than a five-fold increase in the proportion of households with computers,” said Eric Newburger, a Census Bureau analyst. “In addition, Internet use is rapidly becoming synonymous with computer availability.”

In 2000, 44 million U.S. households had at least one member online. In 1997, the first year the Census Bureau collected data on Internet use, fewer than half the households with computers had someone who went online. All told, the Census Bureau found that 95 million people used the Internet in 2000, up from 57 million in 1998.

Of the total U.S. population, about one in three adults used e-mail from home in 2000, and nearly one-quarter used the Internet to search for information on topics such as business, health or government services. Nearly 20 percent used the Internet to check on news, weather or sports. One in eight adults performed job-related tasks using a home Internet connection. E-mail is the most common Internet application at home, used not only by 88 percent of adults, but also by 73 percent of children who are online.

Nine of every 10 school-age children (ages 6 to 17) had access to a computer in 2000, with two-thirds having computer access at home and 80 percent using a computer at school. Sixty-five percent of children ages 3 to 17 lived in a household with a computer in 2000, compared to 55 percent in 1998. About three in 10 children used the Internet at home in 2000, up from two in 10 in 1998. Schools have leveled the playing field for computer access, the Census Bureau found. Computer use at school was more nearly equal across various income, race or ethnic groups than was access at home.

Outside of school, a “digital divide” still exists among households with Internet access and those without. Nearly nine of 10 family households with annual incomes of $75,000 or more had at least one computer and about eight in 10 had at least one household member who used the Internet at home. Among family households with incomes below $25,000, nearly three in 10 had a computer and about two in 10 had Internet access. About 77 percent of White non-Hispanic and 72 percent of Asian and Pacific Islander children lived in households with computers, compared to only 43 percent of African American children and 37 percent of Hispanic children.

Single-person households were the least likely to have a computer (30 percent) or Internet access (24 percent). Among households with two to four persons, 58 percent had a computer and 47 percent had Internet access. Households in the West were the most likely to have computers (57 percent) or Internet access (47 percent). Households in the South were the least likely to have computers (47 percent) and Internet connections (38 percent).

The Census Bureau report uses data obtained from 50,000 U.S. households as part of the Current Population Survey (CPS). It is not based on Census 2000, which did not include questions on computer or Internet access.

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