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Computer and Internet Use in the United States

Posted by Content Coordinator on Wednesday, June 12th, 2013



In 2011, more Americans connected to the Internet than ever before, although differences continued to exist between those with use and those without. Just as with differences in use, variation in the ways that people were connecting online and the frequency of their use remained prevalent as well.

This report provides household and individual level analysis of computer usage and Internet use. The findings are based on data collected in a July 2011 supplement to the Current Population Survey (CPS), which includes questions about computer ownership, Internet use both inside and outside the home, and the additional devices that people use to go online. The U.S. Census Bureau has asked questions in the CPS about computer use since 1984 and Internet use since 1997. This narrative report is complemented by a detailed table package that allows users to explore the data in more detail.

In 2011, household respondents were asked how many computers were present in their home. Respondents were also asked whether anyone in their household used the Internet from that home. Later in the survey, respondents were asked about the individual Internet activities of all members of the household, including whether they accessed the Internet, where that use took place, and what types of devices they used. Over time, the Census Bureau has changed the wording of many questions in the Computer and Internet Use Supplement. Appendix Table A presents a summary of these changes.

This report begins with a summary of computer and Internet use in American households since 1984, while the second part addresses use specifically in 2011. The final section presents a new “Connectivity Continuum” designed to show variations across an all-inclusive scale of personal technology adoption in the general public.


Computer and Internet use at the household level has changed greatly in recent years (Figure 1). In 2011, 75.6 percent of households reported having a computer, compared with only 8.2 percent in 1984 (the first year that the Census Bureau asked about computer ownership), and 61.8 percent in 2003 (the last time the Census Bureau asked about computers prior to 2010). Similar shifts occurred for household Internet use, as 71.7 percent of households reported accessing the Internet in 2011, up from 18.0 percent in 1997 (the first year the Census Bureau asked about Internet use) and 54.7 percent in 2003 (the first year that more than 50 percent of households reported accessing the Internet).

Household Internet use has also historically varied across demographics such as race and ethnicity.  In 2011, 76.2 percent of non-Hispanic White households and 82.7 percent of Asian households reported Internet use at home, compared with 58.3 percent of Hispanic households and 56.9 percent of Black households (Figure 2).

Computer and Internet Use in the United States

Read full report (PDF) here: Computer and Internet Use in the United States

About The United States Census Bureau
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