Everyone Uses the Internet, Right? Wrong.

March 16, 2018

This article is included in these additional categories:

African-American | Boomers & Older | Demographics & Audiences | Digital | Hispanic | Household Income | Men | Women | Youth & Gen X

A declining yet substantial proportion of the US adult population does not use the internet, per data from the Pew Research Center. In fact, 11% of US adults do not go online, with that figure down from 15% in a previous analysis released 5 years ago.

This newest report shows that the same patterns of internet usage remain evident today. Namely, internet usage is strongly correlated with age, household income, educational attainment and community type.

Those variables are outlined briefly below, but before visiting them it’s worth noting that internet usage is relatively consistent among men (89%) and women (88%) and among White (89%), Black (87%) and Hispanic (88%) adults. That marks a significant change from 2013, when Hispanic adults were 60% more likely than the average adult to not go online (24% vs. 15% at the time).


Research from Pew has demonstrated that tech adoption is rising among older adults. Nevertheless – and not too surprisingly – internet usage is lowest among the oldest age bracket.

Fully 34% of adults ages 65 and older do not use the internet, per this latest study. In other words, only two-thirds of the 65+ population is active on the internet and can be reached via digital means. That leaves a substantial portion who need other means of marketing and advertising communications. (Older adults’ affinity for traditional TV suggests that this is one such medium.)

Meanwhile, fully 1 in every 8 adults ages 50-64 (13%) also does not go online, per Pew’s report.

That figure drops to just 3% of 30-49-year-olds and 2% of 18-29-year-olds.

Household Income

Virtually all adults with a household income of at least $50k use the internet, as do the vast majority (93%) of those with a household income of $30-50k.

The number of non-internet users balloons among the lowest-income respondents, however: about one-fifth (19%) of those with household income under $30k aren’t on the internet.

That figure has eased over the years, though not dramatically: back in 2013 about one-quarter (24%) of the lowest-income respondents did not use the internet.

Educational Attainment

Household income and educational attainment tend to be linked, so it’s not a surprise that internet non-usage is higher among adults with lesser levels of educational attainment. However the disparity is quite striking.

For example, while just 3% of adults with a college degree don’t use the internet, that proportion climbs to 16% among those with no more than a high school degree and jumps to 35% among those with less than a high school education.

That relative disparity (the less-than-high-school group is 10x more likely to be offline than the College+ group) is consistent with the 2013 study.

Community Type

Just 8% of adults who live in urban areas don’t go online, per the report, down from 14% in the 2013 analysis. And while suburban adults haven’t made quite the same gains (10% offline, down from 14%), they’re still moving in the same direction.

The same can’t be said for rural Americans. In fact, 22% of those living in rural areas don’t use the internet, and that figure is up from 5 years ago, when 20% were offline.

That change may be due to more youth moving into urban and suburban areas, leaving rural areas to have a higher concentration of older adults who are less apt to be online.

The full results are available to view here.

45th Parallel Design Ad

Explore More Charts.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This