Lower-Income Americans Still Lagging in Tech Adoption

June 7, 2019

Perhaps not surprisingly, lower-income adults in the US have lower levels of technology adoption compared to those with higher incomes. A Pew Research study reveals that while 94% of Americans with a household income (HHI) of more than $100K have home broadband, only 56% of those with an HHI of less than $30K could say the same.

Pew Research interviewed more than 1,500 US adults (18 years old and older) and found that the difference in adoption is even greater between individuals with higher and lower household incomes when it comes to desktop or laptop computers. Almost all (94%) Americans within the highest income level own some type of computer, compared to just over half (54%) of Americans in the lowest income bracket.

The divide is also present for Americans that own multiple devices along with home internet connections. Around two-thirds (64%) of adults with an income of more than $100K own a smartphone, computer, tablet and have home broadband. But on the other side of the income spectrum, only 18% of Americans making less than $30K own all three devices and have home broadband.

Overall, smartphone ownership has remained stagnant in the US between 2016 and 2018 with 77% of adults owning the device. On the other hand, smartphone adoption for individuals making less than $30K has risen, with 71% of US adults in this income group now owning such a device. According to 2015 data from Pew Research, only 52% of this lower income group owned a smartphone that year.

Smartphone adoption is higher among teens (ages 13-17 years old) living in households with incomes less than $30K, though. Pew Research figures from last year show the percentage of these teens owning a smartphone at 93%, suggesting that age is a larger predictor of smartphone ownership, perhaps even more than income.

Previous data released by Pew Research indicates that a significant share of lower-income individuals are not online at all. This latest research finds that many use only smartphones to go online: 26% of individuals in lower-income households say that they rely on their smartphones to go online. This is a little more than twice as many individuals who relied on their smartphone to go online in 2013.

By comparison, very few (5%) of those people with an annual household income of $100K or more do not have home broadband and rely on their smartphone to get online. This is relatively unchanged from 2013 (4%).

To read more, find the survey results here.

About the Data: The analysis for the report is based on telephone interviews of 1,502 US adults ages 18 years old and older. Interviews were conducted between January. 8 – February 7, 2019.

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