Distributed January 4, 2001
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Mark Nickel

Taubman Center for Public Policy

RI computer ownership doubles since ’94 but trails New England, U.S.

Researchers at Brown University used census data to study patterns of computer and Internet usage. Among the conclusions: Rhode Island lags behind New England and the nation in computer usage. The study also showed wide variations in computer ownership by income, education, sex, age and race.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Researchers at Brown University conducting a detailed study of census data have found that computer ownership within Rhode Island has doubled since 1994, but still falls behind the rest of the country.

Darrell M. West, director of Brown’s Taubman Center for Public Policy, and Jack Combs, the Center’s research administrator, examined U.S. Bureau of the Census figures on computer ownership and usage from 1994 to 2000.

Forty-eight percent of Rhode Islanders owned computers in 2000, compared to 56 percent of New Englanders and 51 percent of Americans nationally. Computer ownership is more than double the 22 percent of Rhode Island residents who said they owned a computer in 1994. That year, 27 percent of New Englanders owned computers, as did 24 percent of Americans generally.

Of Rhode Islanders who owned computers, 72 percent owned one computer, 21 percent had two computers, and 7 percent owned three or more computers. One-quarter of the computers in Rhode Island households are more than three years old.

Researchers also found major gaps in computer ownership based on income, education, sex, age and race. For example, while 90 percent of state residents earning $75,000 or more own computers, the rate of ownership falls to 12 percent for those making less than $10,000. Eighty percent of college graduates own a computer, compared to 38 percent of high school graduates. Fifty-two percent of men own a computer, compared to 44 percent of women.

Forty-nine percent of whites have a computer, compared to 34 percent of African-Americans. There are also big differences by age. Thirty-two percent of persons aged 18 to 24 own a computer, compared to 63 percent of those 25 to 34, 68 percent of those 35 to 44, and 61 percent of those aged 45 to 54. Only 27 percent of individuals 55 or older own a computer.

Rhode Islanders are more likely to use the Internet at home than outside the home. Seventy-six percent indicated they used the Internet from a home computer while 21 percent said they used the Internet outside their home.

Asked about their favorite uses of the Internet at home, Rhode Islanders cited e-mail (64 percent), followed by searching for information on government, business, health or education (45 percent), checking for news, weather or sports (34 percent), taking educational courses or conducting school research (32 percent), shopping or paying bills (27 percent), job-related tasks (22 percent), searching for jobs (10 percent), games, entertainment or fun (5 percent), and making phone calls (2 percent).

For more information on this study, contact Darrell M. West at (401) 863-1163.