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Study: Wealth dictates Web use, tech adoption

A new study from Pew Internet Research finds that higher-income Americans tend to use the Internet more often and are also more likely to have gadgets.

Overall broadband adoption, Internet use, and cell phone use among American households.
Overall broadband adoption, Internet use, and cell phone use among American households.
Pew Research Center

Income can dictate how often a person accesses the Internet, a new study has found.

According to Pew Research, 95 percent of Americans living in households with $75,000 or more in annual income are "at least occasionally" likely to access the Web. That figure drops to 70 percent of people in homes with less than $75,000 of annual income. About 57 percent of those with less than $30,000 in annual income use the Internet. Pew also found that 99 percent of people in higher income households access the Internet from home, while 93 percent of those with less income surf the Web from home.

But it goes beyond simply accessing the Internet. Pew said that 93 percent of "higher-income home Internet users have some type of high-speed access." However, 85 percent of homes with less than $75,000 in household income have high-speed Web access across the U.S. Moreover, 83 percent of those in lower-income homes have a mobile phone, compared with 95 percent of people in higher-income households.

The trend of Americans living in higher-income homes having access to more technology carries through in every tech sector. Pew found that 79 percent of those in higher-income homes have desktops, compared with 55 percent of those in lower-income homes. Laptop adoption in higher-income homes is 79 percent, compared with 47 percent in lower-income households. Higher-income homes are also more likely to have iPods, game consoles, e-readers, and tablets by a wide margin.

Pew said income was the main factor in determining Internet use and product adoption in its study. Other differences, including age and gender, didn't create such distinct differences among a person's technology use.

"The correlation between higher income and increased Internet usage was consistent for nearly every online activity," Jim Jansen, senior fellow at Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project, said in a statement. "Income was a significant factor, even when accounting for other attributes, such as age, education, race, gender, and community type."

Concern over low-income households' access to broadband services is something that the Federal Communications Commission has taken up with its National Broadband Plan. In researching its recommendations for the plan, the FCC found that low-income households were far less likely to subscribe to broadband than those homes with higher incomes. In fact, its data, released last year, showed almost 90 percent of households with $100,000 or more in annual income subscribing to broadband service. Just 35 percent of homes with incomes of $20,000 or less had broadband access.