15% of Americans don’t use the internet. Who are they?

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For many Americans, going online is an important way to connect with friends and family, shop, get news and search for information. Yet 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 group has changed little over the past three years, despite recent government and social service programs to encourage internet adoption. But that 15% figure is substantially lower than in 2000, when Pew Research first began to study the social impact of technology. That year, nearly half (48%) of American adults did not use the internet.

A 2013 Pew Research survey found some key reasons that some people do not use the internet. A third of non-internet users (34%) did not go online because they had no interest in doing so or did not think the internet was relevant to their lives. Another 32% of non-internet users said the internet was too difficult to use, including 8% of this group who said they were “too old to learn.” Cost was also a barrier for some adults who were offline – 19% cited the expense of internet service or owning a computer.

The latest Pew Research analysis also shows that internet non-adoption is correlated to a number of demographic variables, including age, educational attainment, household income, race and ethnicity, and community type.

Seniors are the group most likely to say they never go online. About four-in-ten adults ages 65 and older (39%) do not use the internet, compared with only 3% of 18- to 29-year-olds. Household income and education are also indicators of a person’s likelihood to be offline. A third of adults with less than a high school education do not use the internet, but that share falls as the level of educational attainment increases. Adults from households earning less than $30,000 a year are roughly eight times more likely than the most affluent adults to not use the internet.

Rural Americans are about twice as likely as those who live in urban or suburban settings to never use the internet. Racial and ethnic differences are also evident. One-in-five blacks and 18% of Hispanics do not use the internet, compared with 14% of whites and only 5% of English-speaking Asian-Americans – the racial or ethnic group least likely to be offline.

Despite some groups having persistently lower rates of internet adoption, the vast majority of Americans are online. Over time, the offline population has been shrinking, and for some groups that change has been especially dramatic. For example, 86% of adults 65 and older did not go online in 2000; today that figure has been cut in half. And among those without a high school diploma, the share not using the internet dropped from 81% to 33% in the same time period.

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