Unplugged: Why Are 15% of Americans Still Offline?

Have you ever thought what would life be like without the internet? These days it’s hard to imagine the ‘unthinkable’ of society going offline. For many Americans, the Web has become an integral part of any standard means of communication. It might seem inconceivable that in 2015 there could still be Americans who don’t use the Internet — but they are out there. Today 15% of U.S. adults do not use the internet, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of survey data.

The size of this “anti-trend group” has changed little over the past three years, despite recent government and social service programs to encourage internet adoption. These remaining offline survivors are likely to be the hardest to reach. Here’s why.

Who are these people?

In 2000 slightly below half of all Americans were offline. Today, mostly poorer, older rural and undereducated Americans, or about 37 million people, don’t use the Web. They have never done a Google search, and will probably never read this story.

The latest Pew Research analysis shows that internet non-adoption depends on various demographic variables.

Class-related gaps persist. Those living in households with an annual income under $30,000 a year are less likely to report internet usage. Around 20 percent of African Americans and 18 percent of Hispanics said they don’t use the Internet, compared with 14 percent of whites and 5 percent of English-speaking Asian Americans, Pew said. Among those who’ve never finished high school, a third never use the Web, as well as a quarter of adults living in rural areas.

“How the internet has woven itself into American life”

The Internet has become the Archimedean point in our daily life. Almost nothing gets done without it nowadays and the US is an increasingly digital society.

Previous data from the Pew Research Internet Project illustrated America’s embrace of – and increasing reliance on – the internet since the 1990s. More than half of Americans admitted they would find the internet “very hard” to give up.

Unplugged- Why Are 15 of Americans Still Offline? - Clapway

Life with no Internet

According to a 2013 Pew Research survey, American non-internet users said they did not go online mostly because they did not think the internet was relevant to their lives and they found it too difficult to use. Cost was also a barrier– 19% cited the expense of internet service or owning a computer. Since 2000, Pew has conducted 98 surveys on the topic.

Although the offline population has been shrinking for some groups – such as adults 65 and older and among those without a high school diploma – real structural challenges such as poverty and inequality are keeping part of the population unplugged.

Are you concerned about 15% of Americans still being offline? Share your views in the comments section below.


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