Who Are The 15 Percent Of Adults Who Don’t Use The Internet?

pipes According to new survey data from the Pew Research Center, 15 percent of US adults don’t use the Internet or email. If there are roughly 250 million adults in the US, that would mean just under 38 million people are “non-Internet users.”

Pew’s survey data reflect that most of the non-Internet users are over 50 with the largest group in the over 65 age category. They’re also less educated and less affluent than the online population:

Internet use remains strongly correlated with age, educational attainment, and household income. One of the strongest patterns in the data on internet use is by age group: 44% of Americans ages 65 and older do not use the internet, and these older Americans make up almost half (49%) of non-internet users overall.

US internet penetration

In terms of the reasons for not going online, Pew found the following:

  • 34 percent believe the Internet isn’t relevant to their lives; they have no interest or need
  • 32 percent say it’s challenging or frustrating to go online; some of these people are also afraid of “spam, spyware, and hackers”
  • 19 percent don’t want or can’t afford to pay for a computer and the associated access cost
  • 7 percent “cited a physical lack of availability or access to the Internet”

Some of these non-Internet users (44 percent) have asked family/friends to go online for them. Another group (23 percent) live in households where the Internet is available. And another contingent (14 percent) are ex-Internet users.

Most of these non-users are quite content to remain offline, with only 8 percent saying they would like to go online or use email. What that then suggests is that US Internet penetration has reached almost all of the “addressable market.”

Related Topics: Channel: Consumer | Features & Analysis | Statistics | Statistics: Online Behavior | Statistics: Popularity & Usage | Top News


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • Cynexis Media

    The next question is how do we take our Internet marketing strategies to reach that 15% of non-users?

  • Chris Ratchford

    I’m thinking we don’t. I’m making an assumption, but I don’t think that 15% is a group with disposable income. BTW- I have an inlaw who couldn’t turn on a computer and send an email to save his life.

  • Steve

    I don’t think it’s a money issue. Even poor families have access to computers and internet. These are probably people who have no desire to go online, or people who choose to detach themselves from technology.

  • Chris Alphen

    Of the 15%, I’d guess that some get along just fine while others are making life more difficult than it has to be. I’m more concerned with the 85%.

    Based on my own anecdotal evidence many users struggle once they get beyond intuitive elements-search and email. And Google is on a path to further complicate search.
    The % of consumers who are at risk or susceptible to bad actors is probably going down. Then there are people who absolutely need to understand the internet at a deeper level.And as a group, they don’t.

    It’s probably the generational thing alluded to in the study but small business operators are struggling to integrate digital solutions. So, they’re inside that 85%-but just barely.

  • kissmarketing

    Maybe the 14 percent of ex-Internet users are on The Information Diet. The Internet is a great tool but it has turned into a digital junkyard. You definitely need to know which websites have trustworthy data and which are part of the big 3 content farms – delivering nothing but mind candy … it is very disturbing. People are sheep … most believe anything they read online … that is scary.

  • http://www.andrew-turnbull.com/ Andrew Turnbull

    My immediate family has 25 people — my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and a single grandparent on each side. Of this group, three do not use the internet.

    One is a bachelor, and the remaining two are my grandparents. There’s your non-internet using population.

  • Ric

    Or perhaps the 14% are also made up of people that have decided that our governments illegal hacking of the Internet and the people that use it is unacceptable and they will no longer take part.

    I expect this segment to grow as the police state tightens the grip.

  • davidhoffman

    Yes, they have access to computers. The poor have access to single core ancient machines that max out at 0.5GB of RAM. Try a little multitasking, some simultaneous internet usage, and running security software all at once on one of those things. Might as well have an early dialup connection for how slowly it runs.

    The money issue is huge for many of these people. I know some of them. I have never understood the dismissal of cost in the discussion of the digital divide. It is the reason they only buy used deeply discounted tires and discounted out of date bread. There is no public transportation in many areas. It is the reason they have 4 different colored doors, 4 different colored fenders, and 2 colors for the hood and the trunk lid on their cars. It is the reason they walk around barefoot, to save shoes for the part time day jobs they get here and there. Going to the Goodwill store is sometimes a considered a luxury. They save money by gathering fallen tree limbs or cutting down dead or dying trees. The wood is used to cook with outdoors so as not to use up what little money they have for electricity. They keep old medications and share them, because they cannot afford new medicine. They sleep under piles of old blankets, wearing layers of old oversized clothes, with the heat turned off to save energy money in the winter. They have to stand in line for hours at school supply give-aways for their school age children or grandchildren.

    What ignorant analysts keep arriving at the conclusion that the cost of high speed internet services and computers are insignificant to these people?

  • apfwebs

    Among the 15% I admit are some folks who aren’t tech savvy, those who don’t need it, those who’re scared of the NSA. There’s also a group who might have noticed those who spend over half (heck, over three quarters) of their lives online, and are saddened. There are other things to do in at least some folks’ lives: being online isn’t the be-all and end-all. They may be boycotting.

  • LS650

    The “git offa my lawn” crowd.

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