Digital Divide: The Technology Gap between the Rich and Poor

Even as technology becomes more affordable and internet access seems increasingly ubiquitous, a “digital divide” between rich and poor remains. The rich and educated are still more likely than others to have good access to digital resources according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. The digital divide has especially far-reaching consequences when it comes to education. For children in low-income school districts, inadequate access to technology can hinder them from learning the tech skills that are crucial to success in today’s economy.

  • According to the 2012 Pew Report “Digital Differences,” only 62% of people in households making less than $30,000 a year used the internet, while in those making $50,000-74,999 that percentage jumped to 90.
  • Smart phones have helped bridge the divide, as they provide internet access to populations previously at a digital disadvantage. Pew reports that, among smart phone owners, “young adults, minorities, those with no college experience, and those with lower household income levels” are more likely to access the internet primarily through their phones.
  • There are still gaps in high-speed internet access. Only 49% of African Americans and 51% of Hispanics have high-speed internet at home, as compared with 66% of Caucasians. Internet speed has important effects on media access, especially when it comes to streaming video, so this gap is significant.
  • In a Pew survey of teachers, teachers of low income students tended to report more obstacles to using educational technology effectively than their peers in more affluent schools.
  • Among teachers in the highest income areas, 70% said their school gave them good support for incorporating technology into their teaching. Among teachers in the lowest income areas, that numbers was just 50%.
  • Fifty-six percent of teachers in low income schools say that their students’ inadequate access to technology is a “major challenge” for using technology as a teaching aid.
  • Fifty-four percent of all teachers said their students had adequate internet access at school, but only 18% said their students had adequate access at home. Interestingly, urban teachers are more likely to say students have poor access to internet at school, while rural teachers are more likely to report that students have poor access at home.

--Liz Soltan