Wealthier Use Internet Differently

November 30, 2010

Higher income Americans show different usage patterns for the internet than those in lower income brackets, according to new data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Wealthier Engage in Various Online Activities More

On a given day, Americans with a household income of $75,000 or more are significantly more likely than Americans with lower household incomes to engage in a variety of online activities. In each case, participation drops with each preceding income bracket and hits its lowest point at the less than $30,000 bracket.

For example, 55% of the highest-income Americans use the internet frequently on a given day, compared to 31% of the lowest-income Americans. These discrepancies also exist for getting online news (50% compared to 25%), researching a product (40% compared to 19%), and searching for a map (20% compared to 12%).

Wealthiest Have Highest Online News Consumption

Americans with a household income of $75,000 or more also have the highest rate of engagement with online news (74%), which drops through the income brackets and hits its lowest point in the less than $30,000 bracket (34%). The same pattern, with lower overall engagement rates, exists for print media for national paper (22% compared to 12%).

Interestingly, the highest and lowest income Americans tie for second-highest consumption of print media for local papers (50% each), barely trailing those with a household income of $50,000 – $74,999 (51%).

The highest bracket ties the second-lowest bracket ($30,000-$49,999) for consumption of national TV news (76%). The second-lowest bracket has a clear lead above all other income brackets in consuming local TV news (82%, with the $50,000 – $74,999 in second with a 78% consumption rate).

Wealthiest Likeliest to Seek Online Health Info

When it comes to seeking health information online, once again the highest income bracket has the highest levels of engagement in all covered areas and the lowest income bracket has the lowest levels of engagement.

However, in locating a medical facility online, those with a household income of $30,000 to $49,999 have a slightly higher engagement rate than those with a household income of $50,000 to $74,999 (36% compared to 35%). In locating doctors online, these two brackets tie for second-most-likely to do so with a 45% engagement rate.

Almost All Higher Income Americans Use Web, E-Commerce

Other data from the study indicates 95% of Americans who live in households earning $75,000 or more a year use the internet at least occasionally, compared with 70% of those living in households earning less than $75,000.

In addition, significantly more higher-income Americans are conducting e-commerce activities than members of other income groups. Solid majorities of higher-income internet users research products (88%), make travel reservations online (83%), purchase products or services online (81%), perform online banking (74%), use the internet to pay bills (71%), and use online classified sites such as Craigslist (60%).

About the Data: The findings in this report come from three surveys by the Pew Internet Project conducted in late 2009 and 2010.

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