Digital Divide Isn't Budging

The American Community Survey (ACS), produced by the U.S. Census Bureau, collects data on community demographics, education, income, and more. The annual report provides small-area information in an effort to help inform decisions on community-, state-, and federal-level funding. The U.S. Census Bureau recently released data from the ACS 2013 survey, which included information on the digital divide. The map shown above depicts the percentage of households with Internet subscriptions broken down by state. It’s immediately evident states in more rural areas or with lower median incomes have fewer Internet subscriptions than wealthier, more urban states do.

Mississippi comes out worst to wear with 42.6 percent of households lacking Internet access. New Hampshire has the most households subscribed to Internet, but even then, 19 percent of households are still without. On average, 26.6 percent of households go without home Internet access.


From the graph above, we can get a better idea of the breakdown of Internet access by income. It’s clear that the higher the income of the household, the more likely they are to have Internet access. While 44.5 percent of households with incomes below $10,000 have Internet, 91.4 percent of households with incomes about $75,000 have home access. The correlation between home Internet access and income is clear.

When Internet access has such a strong effect on one’s economic potential, the fact that low-income households are far less likely to have no home access means that these households face even stronger barriers to bettering their economic situation.

What’s contributing to households’ lack of Internet access? From our experience, there are three main barriers to access: (1) cost, (2) relevancy, and (3) literacy. If we want to close the digital divide, we have to make Internet access more affordable and teach people about how Internet and digital literacy and improve their lives, we’re not going to change these numbers.