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As computer and Internet use have grown dramatically, access gaps have widened rather than narrowed in the United States. This report uses Current Population Survey data from 1997 to update trends in computers and connectivity since an earlier 1995 study. It finds that there is a continuing “digital divide” between those who do and do not have access to computers and communication technologies. The division is significantly predicted by income, education, race/ethnicity, and — to a lesser extent — age, location, and possibly gender. The disparities have persisted over a period in which the technologies of interest have decreased dramatically in price (relative to what they can do) and increased markedly in user friendliness. Sizable demographic subgroups that remain on the wrong side of the digital divide may be deprived of the benefits associated with citizenship in an information society.

"Taking a straightforward approach, the authors outline the results of the data analysis, presenting separately for each of the six predictor variables [income, education, race/ethnicity, age, sex, and location of residence]. Using clear narrative and information graphs, the point is made that contrary to popular perception the 'digital divide' is in some cases widening as opposed to narrowing. The results of the CPS [Current Population Survey] data analysis are interesting and informative. Clearly, articulated reports such as the one under review are a good start in providing policymakers with unequivocal data on the persistent inequalities in the digital age."

- Journal of Government Information

The research described in this report was supported by the John and Mary R. Markle Foundation and performed under the auspices of RAND’s Science and Technology unit.

This report is part of the RAND monograph report series. The monograph/report was a product of RAND from 1993 to 2003. RAND monograph/reports presented major research findings that addressed the challenges facing the public and private sectors. They included executive summaries, technical documentation, and synthesis pieces.

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