Chapter 3: Online Activities

As increasing numbers of Americans are going online, they are engaging in a wide variety of online activities.Nearly half (45.0 percent) of the population now uses e-mail.The September 2001 survey asked respondents to report on activities in 16 areas, compared to the nine activities measured in the August 2000 survey.This yearís survey revealed that activity levels for the original nine categories continued to grow, while also reporting strong activity levels for the newly added categories.

Primary Uses by the U.S. Population

The chief uses of the Internet remained the same in September 2001 as in August 2000, but occurred at much higher levels (Figure 3-1).The predominant use continued to be e-mail or instant messaging.In September 2001, nearly half of the population used e-mail (45.2 percent, up from 35.4 percent in 2000).Searching for information also ranked high: approximately one-third of Americans used the Internet to search for product and service information (36.2 percent, up from 26.1 percent in 2000), and to search for news, weather, and sports information (33.3 percent, up from 19.2 percent in 2000).

In addition, many more Internet users reported making online purchases or conducting online banking.The August 2000 survey combined these two categories and found that 13.3 percent of online users were engaged in both activities.The September 2001 survey, however, asked about these activities separately and found that 21.0 percent made online purchases and 8.1 percent conducted banking online.

Figure 3-1: Online Activities, 2000 and 2001
as a Percentage of Total U.S. Population, Persons Age 3 +

Source: NTIA and ESA, U.S. Department of Commerce, using U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey Supplements

 

Activities Among Those Individuals Online

Looking more specifically at Internet users, e-mail easily outdistances all other online activity (Figure 3-2).Online users are also connecting to the Internet in large numbers to search for information, whether it is product/services, health, or government services.The Internet is also a source for news and sports for many online users.To the extent that product/service purchases, online trading, and online banking represent consumers engaged in e-commerce, that activity is fairly strong and growing.

Figure 3-2:Activities of Individuals Online, 2001

As a Percentage of Internet Users, Persons Age 3 +

*These online activities surveyed individuals age 15 and over only. **This activity was asked of all respondents. If the response was restricted to individuals enrolled in school, the percentage of Internet users completing school assignments would increase to 77.5 percent.

Source: NTIA and ESA, U.S. Department of Commerce, using U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey Supplements

Whether an Internet user engages in a certain activity varies by some, but not all, demographic factors.For example, geography has little impact on the selection of activity.The proportions of Internet users engaged in specific online activities varies little across regions, and was similar regardless of whether the Internet user lived in a rural, urban, or central city area. Household type also showed little, if any, differences.Gender, age, race, and income, however, do have some relationship with Internet usersí selection of online activities, as discussed below.

 

Gender

Male and female Internet users engage in some online activities at different rates.More men than women used the Internet to check news, weather, and sports (67.1 percent versus 56.7 percent respectively), but more women went online to find information on health services or practices (39.8 percent contrasted with 29.6 percent for men).A higher proportion of male Internet users use the Internet for financial purposes as compared with females:they were more than twice as likely as females to trade online (12.6 percent of males compared to 5.3 percent of females), and males were slightly more likely to bank online than female users (19.3 percent versus 16.5 percent).

A larger percentage of male Internet users reported using the Internet for entertainment-oriented activities. A higher proportion of males versus females played games online (45.3 percent versus 39.1 percent, respectively) and viewed television or movies or listened to the radio (21.9 percent versus 15.9 percent, respectively).

Men and women responded similarly for the remaining categories surveyed.For example, 82.8 percent of male Internet users e-mailed, compared to 85.1 percent of female Internet users; 16.9 percent of male Internet users searched online for jobs, compared to 16.0 percent of female Internet users; and 18.4 percent of male Internet users participated in online chat rooms or list servs, compared to 16.3 percent of female Internet users.

Age

An Internet userís age also affects online use and activities.Those 55 and older were least likely to use the Internet in many of the surveyed categories, such as playing games, job searching, participating in chat rooms or list servs, viewing television or movies, listening to the radio, or trading online.On the other hand, this age group was more likely (42.7 percent) than any other age group to check health information online.And those 55 and older showed equally strong e-mail use as any other adult age group.

Internet users in the 25-34 age group were the most likely to bank online (26.1 percent), followed by the Internet users in the 35-44 age group (21.3 percent), the 45-54 age group (17.7 percent) and the 55 and above age group (13.0 percent).††

Online shopping is particularly common among 25-34 years old Internet users.About half of the people in this age group (53.0 percent) used the Internet for online shopping, as did 51.2 percent of the 35-44 year olds.

An in depth look at Internet users under the age of 25 is presented in Chapter 5.

Figure 3-3:Selected Online Activity by Age, 2001
As a Percent of Internet Users, Persons Age 25 +

Source: NTIA and ESA, U.S. Department of Commerce, using U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey Supplements

Race

Internet users of different racial and Hispanic backgrounds are increasingly using the Internet for a number of online activities.Differences exist among these various groups regarding their levels of online activities (Figure 3-4).A smaller proportion of Black and Hispanic Internet users e-mail, search for news, conduct searches for product/service information or make online purchases.

Figure 3-4:Selected Online Activity by Race/Hispanic Origin, 2001
As a Percent of Internet Users, Persons Age 3 +

Source: NTIA and ESA, U.S. Department of Commerce, using U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey Supplements

Income

Comparing income levels and online activities reveals a general pattern that shows broader use as income increases.The proportion of Internet users in the highest income level (households earning more than $75,000 a year) exceeds all other income groups in eight of the 16 online categories surveyed.As demonstrated in Table 3-1, these individuals were more likely to use the Internet to:search for health services or product information; search for government services or agency information; purchase products or services; search for products and services; bank, trade, or e-mail; or search for news, sports, or weather.

Table 3-1:Online Activities of Internet Users by Household Family Income, 2001
Percent of Internet Users Age 3 +

 

Under 15,000

15,000-24,999

25,000-34,999

35,000-49,999

50,000-74,999

Over 75,000

E-Mail/Instant Messaging

72.0

75.5

78.7

81.3

85.0

89.1

Playing Games

47.0

48.6

45.7

44.5

42.9

37.5

News, Weather, Sports

53.5

55.5

57.2

58.3

63.2

67.0

Product/Service Information Search

54.9

58.0

63.3

64.2

68.5

73.5

Complete School Assignments

37.1

27.3

25.1

22.9

23.3

24.6

Job Search

23.0

20.6

20.5

17.4

16.0

14.6

Chat Rooms or Listservs

23.0

20.0

18.8

16.9

16.5

16.5

Health Services or Practices Info. Search

29.5

29.9

32.7

32.9

35.1

38.9

Government Services Search

28.1

27.2

28.0

29.6

29.6

35.1

Product/Service Purchases

26.1

26.8

31.4

35.0

39.4

49.1

View TV/Movies, Listen to Radio

20.0

19.1

19.1

18.6

18.5

19.8

Online Banking

12.8

12.1

14.4

15.6

18.0

23.0

Online Education Course

4.0

3.2

3.1

3.6

3.5

4.0

Trade Stocks, Bonds, Mutual Funds

3.2

2.9

4.9

6.3

8.1

13.8

Make Phone Calls

6.7

6.3

5.2

5.9

4.8

5.1

 

Source: NTIA and ESA, U.S. Department of Commerce, using U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey Supplements

 


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