January 27, 2022

New Data/Report: “Computer and Internet Use in the United States: 2016” (U.S. Census)

From the U.S. Census

The presence and use of computers has grown considerably over the past few decades. In 1984, 8 percent of households reported owning a computer according to the Current Population Survey (CPS). Over half of adults who said they used a computer at home in 1984, 59 percent reported they were learning how to use it.1 Adults used computers for a limited number of activities such as word processing, video games, and jobs. By 2015, however, the percentage of households with a computer had increased almost tenfold to 79 percent in the CPS. In 2016, the American Community Survey (ACS) found that 89 percent of households had a computer, making it a common feature of everyday life. Nowadays, people use computers for an even wider range of uses including online banking, entertainment, socializing, and accessing health care.


Highlights From the Report

  • Among all households in 2016, 89 percent had a computer, which includes smartphones, and 81 percent had a broadband Internet subscription.
  • In 2016, the U.S. Census Bureau measured smartphone ownership or use and tablets separately for the first time, in addition to more traditional desktop or laptop computers. Seventy-six percent of households had a smartphone, and 58 percent of households had a tablet, but desktop or laptop computers still led the way with use by 77 percent of households.
  • Smartphone use has become common among younger households (headed by people under age 45), households headed by Blacks or Hispanics, and households with low incomes (under $25,000) where smartphones were more prevalent than traditional laptop and desktop computers. Households headed by Hispanics were more likely to have a smartphone than households headed by non-Hispanic Whites.
  • A small percentage of households have smartphones but no other type of computer for connecting to the Internet. These “smartphone only” households were more likely to be low income, Black or Hispanic.
  • Nearly half of all households (48 percent) have “high connectivity”—a term used here to refer to households with a laptop or desktop computer, a smartphone, a tablet, and a broadband Internet connection. High connectivity ranged from 80 percent of households with an income of $150,000 or more, to 21 percent of households with an income under $25,000. • Households with an Asian householder were most likely to own or use a desktop or laptop, own or use a smartphone, own or use a table and have a broadband Internet subscription. • Households in metropolitan areas were more likely to report owning or using each type of computer—desktop or laptop, a smartphone, or a tablet, and subscribing to broadband Internet compared to their nonmetropolitan counterparts.
  • States on the Pacific Coast and most states in the Northeast had higher levels of broadband Internet compared to the national average. Washington had the highest rate of broadband subscriptions (87 percent), while Arkansas and Mississippi had the lowest (71 percent).

Direct to Full Text Report: “Computer and Internet Use in the United States: 2016” (U.S. Census Report)
14 pages; PDF.

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.