Why 15% of Americans Don’t Use the Internet

The Internet has become an integral part of most Americans’ daily lives. While it would seem to our generation that the World Wide Web has taken over our culture, there are still a few holdouts. I’m talking about the 15% of Americans who are still disconnected from the Internet. That may seem like a small percentage, but taking into account the United States’ population of approximately 300 million people, it actually comes out to about 47 million Americans who are offline. So who are these avatar-less people, and why is the soft glow of the computer screen not drawing them in?

These poor, unconnected individuals must not have access to the Internet—that’s the only thinkable reason why they wouldn’t use it, right? False. As it turns out, inaccessibility falls low on the list of reasons why these Americans have chosen to shun the Internet. In fact, most of these Americans are quite content to remain offline. According to a new study by Pew Research Center, 92% of these non-users simply have no interest in the Internet or e-mail, and have no plans of joining the online community.

The top four reasons cited for staying offline are as follows:

1. Relevance – They have no interest in it, find that they are too busy or that using it is not worth their time.

2. Usability – They find it frustrating and too difficult to use. It’s not worth the effort for some, for others a physical inability prevents them.

3. Price – They cannot afford or choose not to pay the costs associated with the Internet.

4. Availability – There are still some places in America where Internet access is relatively limited.

The Pew Researcher who authored this report, Kathryn Zickuhr commented that many people are surprised to discover that not everyone is online. “Most offline adults either don’t see the Internet as relevant to them, or feel that it would not be worth the effort. And though many have had some experiences with the Internet in the past, most non-Internet users say they are not interested in going online in the future.”

Age is the most consistent indicator of Internet use. Over 40% of the non-users are over the age of 65. Income and education are also indicators—the more wealth and education one has, the more likely they are to be online.

The fact that most of the offline adults are senior citizens is no surprise in light of the main reasons cited for not using the Internet; however, there is still a small percentage of adults aged 18-25 who are also non-users. That computes to 6.2 million young adults who choose to remain offline.

Despite these holdouts, according to MarketingLand’s Greg Sterling, the fact that only about 8% of them have any desire to use the World Wide Web suggests that US Internet penetration has reached almost all of the “addressable market.”



Rachel Sipe

Rachel hails from Virginia Beach but frequently daydreams of living on every continent of the world (sometimes Middle-Earth and Westeros find their way in there too). Rachel has many things in common with Winnie the Pooh: soft, cuddly, loves a boy, can't resist sweets, and when the going gets tough, it helps to sit on a log and think, think, think.