New Social Survey Perspectives on the Digital Divide

Authors: John P. Robinson, Paul DiMaggio, and Eszter Hargittai

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Citation: Robinson, J., DiMaggio, P.J. & Hargittai, E. (2003). New Social Survey Perspectives on the Digital Divide. IT & Society. 1(5), 1-22. Summer.


Most studies of the digital divide are concerned with the simple criterion of access, usually in the convenient locale of one's home. That divide could be exacerbated by usage differences after such access has been achieved, however. This article takes advantage of usage data from the General Social Survey and other surveys to examine whether more highly educated respondents also have such advantages in usage processes after access has been achieved. Education has emerged from the NTIA and other national surveys as a more important multivariate predictor than income

Using a framework developed by DiMaggio and Hargittai (2001), it is found that college-educated respondents possess clear advantages over high-school educated respondents in using the Internet to derive occupational, educational and other benefits. The clearest advantage appears in terms of the types of sites visited, uses made and political discussion. Here, multivariate evidence shows that education-and occasionally income, age and marital status-is associated with consistently more long-term uses related to enhanced life chances via work, education, health or political participation; education is also related to less use for simple, short-term, entertainment or personal purposes. The advantages to the college educated are also evident in their keeping in contact with a wider range of friends and relatives, particularly by email. On the other hand, in several areas (e.g. search strategies employed; receiving assistance from relatives) little gap by education exists.


  • Abstract
  • Survey Methodology
  • Results
  • Summary and Conclusions


Grateful acknowledgement is given to the National Science Foundation, Office of Science and Technology, for support through grants NSF01523184 and NSF0086143.

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