Nebraska better connected than most, census survey of Internet use finds

2013-06-23T03:55:00Z Nebraska better connected than most, census survey of Internet use findsBy JORDAN PASCALE / Lincoln Journal Star

Nebraskans are more connected to the Internet than the average American, according to a recently released report based on 2011 U.S. Census Bureau data.

About 30.4 percent of Nebraskans were at the highest level of a "continuum scale," meaning they have Internet connectivity on multiple devices at home and out of the home, such as smartphones or tablets. 

Nebraska is one of a dozen states that had higher connectivity than the national average. Twenty-seven percent of Americans had connection on more than one device.

Meanwhile, 14.3 percent of 1,694 Nebraskans interviewed reported having no computer or Internet connection at all, lower than the national average of 15.9 percent.

The findings are part of a 54,000-person survey conducted by the Census Bureau in July 2011.

The survey asked respondents questions about computer and Internet use for households and individuals.

Those with lower incomes and less education were the most likely to have lowest levels of Internet connectivity, according to the report.

There’s also a racial divide, with 24.5 percent of African Americans and 25.9 percent of Hispanic Americans reporting no Internet connection, versus 12.2 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

While disparities in Internet use persist among racial and ethnic groups, smartphones appear to have been helping to bridge the digital divide during the past decade.

“Different groups of people are accessing the Internet in very different ways, and these statistics give us a better understanding of how and where those connections are taking place," said Thom File, the report’s author and a sociologist with the Census Bureau.

Asians reported the highest use of the Internet at home at 78.3 percent; Hispanics reported the lowest at 51.2 percent.

However, the gap narrows to 17.5 percentage points when smartphone use is factored into overall rates of Internet use. With smartphones factored in, 83 percent of Asians and 65.5 percent of Hispanics reported going online.

Smartphone use hovers near 50 percent for most groups: 51.6 percent of Asians, 48 percent of both white non-Hispanics and blacks and 45 percent of Hispanics.

In terms of age, 48.2 percent of people age 15 and older reported using smartphones.

Smartphones have helped shrink the divide in the past decade in part because they allow users Internet access via wireless cellular networks without having to pay for Internet at home.

In 2000, white non-Hispanic households were about twice as likely as black households to report Internet access. By 2011, white non-Hispanic households were only about 1.3 times as likely as black households to report the same.

Reach Jordan Pascale at 402-473-7120, or follow him on Twitter: @LJSPascale.

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