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Fact of the Week:36 Percent of Online Households Making $50,000 or Less Are Classified As Having Low Digital Skills

Fact of the Week:36 Percent of Online Households Making $50,000 or Less Are Classified As Having Low Digital Skills

January 23, 2023

Source: John B. Horrigan, “Digital Skills and Trust: How they affect the way low- and lower-middle income households connected to the internet during the pandemic,” (EveryoneOn, February 2022).

Commentary: In a highly digitized world, a large subset of the population is held back by a lack of digital skills—in other words, the ability to use the Internet. A national survey of households making $50,000 or less, all with at least some form of online connectivity, classified 36 percent of respondents as having low digital skills. 39 percent were in the high digital skills category.

The survey found that those with high digital skill levels are twice as likely as those with low digital skills to trust community anchor institutions like public libraries, schools, or community nonprofits for information on broadband affordability programs (46 to 23 percent). Digital skills are also inextricably linked to attitudes about the importance of getting online: When asked how easy it would be to maintain Internet service without a discount, those with high levels of digital skills were twice as likely as those with low digital skill levels to say it would be very easy (36 percent to 15 percent). The presence of digital skills influenced responses even in addition to other factors like income. Overall, attitudes towards broadband and the institutions surrounding it are complex and interlinked, and successful attempts to bolster adoption rates will need to reflect that complexity.

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