December 12, 2001

Asian-Americans and the Internet

Main Report: Life among highly-wired Americans

A portrait of the online Asian-American population

Asian-Americans who speak English are the most wired racial or ethnic group in America.1 They are also the Internet’s heaviest and most experienced users, compared to other groups.  With data compiled over the course of 2000, the Pew Internet & American Life Project has found that fully 75% of Asian-Americans have gone online at one time or another. There are over 5 million Asian-American Internet users, which represents a higher proportion of the Asian-American population than the 58% of whites who have gone online, as well as the 43% of African-Americans and 50% of Hispanics who have done so.2

Our studies of Internet usage have found that higher levels of education and income correlate with access to the Internet.  English-speaking Asian-Americans tend to have higher levels of both household income and education than any other ethnic group.  According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data, Asian-Americans had an average household income in 1999 of $51,205.  By comparison, whites had an average household income of $42,504, Hispanics had an average income of $30,700, and African-Americans had an average income of $27,910.  Asian-Americans are also more likely to possess a college degree than their white, African-American, or Hispanic peers.  About 40% of Asian-Americans 18 or older possess a college diploma, while 25% of whites, 14% of black Americans, and 7% of Hispanics have obtained a bachelor’s degree. 

A portrait of the online Asian-American population

English-speaking Asian-Americans are more likely than those in other ethnic and racial groups to use a computer on a regular basis.  About 78% of Asians use a computer, which represents over 6 million people.  This is a much higher proportion of computer users than the 65% of white, the 55% of African-American, and the 63% of Hispanic adults who say they use computers.

Use of the internet by men and women

The online Asian-American population is predominantly male.  While the overall Internet population is evenly split 50-50 between men and women, the Asian-American online population is 58% male, 42% female.  By comparison, the white online population is evenly split at 50-50 by gender; the online African-American population is 43% male and 57% female; and the Hispanic Internet population is also split 50-50 between men and women.

At the same time, the percentages of Asian-American men and women using the Internet are much higher than those for white, black, or Hispanic adults.  About 72% of Asian-American men go online, while 60% of Asian-American women are Internet users.  In contrast, 55% of white men have ever gone online, and they are joined by half of all white women; 38% of African-American men have logged on to the Internet, while 37% of black women have done so; and finally, 48% of Hispanic men go online, and they are joined by 45% of Hispanic women.  Overall, 52% of American men are Internet users, as are 48% of American women.

Daily Usage

Asian-Americans are also heavy users of the Internet on a day-to-day basis.  Fully 70% of Asian-American users go online on a typical day.  This is significantly higher than any other group, the next highest being online whites, 58% of whom log on during an average day.  Just over half of the total American online population logs onto the Internet daily.

Asian-American men and women are equally likely to log on to the Internet on a typical day; with 71% of Asian-American men and 68% of Asian-American women using the Web daily.  This is a similar story to the one involving African-Americans, though a significantly smaller proportion of African-Americans use the Internet on a typical day. Forty percent of black male users are online on an average day, along with 39% of black female users.  By comparison, online white men are slightly more inclined to use the Internet on a daily basis than white women users (60% to 55%), as are male Hispanic users relative to Hispanic women (51% to 45%).  Overall, slightly more men (58% of male users) are online daily than are women (53%).

The average Asian-American Internet user is also more likely to have a college degree than his or her peers.  Just over half (52%) of Asian-American users possess a college diploma or better.  About 38% of white users, 29% of African-American users and 26% of Hispanic users have a similar level of education. 

Asian-American Internet users also have higher household incomes than Internet users of other races.  Almost 34% of Asian-Americans who go online have annual incomes of $75,000 or more.  This is slightly more than the 29% of white users with similar incomes, and much higher than the 17% of African-American and the 18% of Hispanic users who earn as much.  About 22% of Asian-American users have incomes between $30,000 and $50,000, and about a quarter (25%) have incomes under $30,000 a year. 

Age of internet users

The Asian-American Internet population is also one of the most youthful on the Web.  Almost two-thirds (63%) of Asian-American users are between the ages of 18 and 34.  This is significantly higher than the average; 41% of total Internet users are between 18 and 34.  The Hispanic online population comes closest to being as young as the Asian-American cohort. Sixty-one percent of Hispanic users are between the ages of 18 and 34. 

The Internet has not made strong inroads with older Asian-Americans as it has within other ethnic groups, especially among baby boomers between the ages of 45 and 54.  Only 8% of the Asian-American Internet population is in this age group, a relatively small proportion when compared to the fact that baby boomers comprise 21% of the white Internet population and 15% of black users.  Overall, this age group accounts for about a fifth (19%) of the total Internet population.  About 5% of the Asian-American online population is between 55 and 64, and 2% are seniors over 65.  In both instances, this is about half of the proportion for the white Internet population. 

Online for a long time

Asian-American Internet users are more likely to be veteran users than their white, African-American, or Hispanic peers.  Veteran users with more than three years of online experience constitute 34% of the total online population.  Almost half (49%) of Asian-Americans who use the Internet are veteran users.  About 80% of Asian-Americans who go online first did so over two years ago.  Asian-American users are much more likely to be Net veterans than whites (35%), as well as their minority peers: 26% of African-American users are veterans, as are 27% of Hispanic users.

Asian-American men embraced the Internet early, and they comprise the most experienced ethnic or racial user group on the Internet. Fully 55% of them first came online more than three years ago.  This is much higher than the 40% of white men, 28% of black men, and the 29% of Hispanic men with a similar level of experience.  Also, 86% of Asian-American men have more than two years of experience online.  On the flip side, only 4% of Asian-American male users are novices (less than six months), while 10% of white men, 21% of African-American men and 18% of Hispanic men are new to the Internet. 

Asian-American women also logged on to the Internet before their white, black, and Hispanic female peers.  About 40% of Asian-American women users are veterans (3+ years).  Almost three-quarters (72%) have two or more years of experience.  By comparison, 29% of white women, 23% of African-American women, and a quarter of Hispanic women are Web vets of three or more years.    A little fewer than 10% of Asian-American female users are new (less than six months); their white (15%), black (23%) and Hispanic (20%) peers are more likely to be new to cyberspace. 

Heavy daily use

Not only are Asian-Americans Internet veterans, they also tend to stay online longer during a typical Internet session than those in other racial and ethnic groups. Almost 40% of Asian-Americans who go online on a typical day spend two or more hours on the Internet; 15% stay in cyberspace for four or more hours.  About 29% of all those who are online on any given day spend two or more hours online during their session. 

Internet veterans

Likewise, Asian-American Internet users are more likely to say they use the Internet every day, and are also more likely to log on several times a day.  Almost two-thirds (64%) of Asian-American home users report going online at least once a day from their house; almost a third (32%) go online several times a day.  A little over half (51%) of the total Internet population goes online at least once a day from home.

Asian-Americans with work Internet access are just as enthusiastic about logging on and making the Web an important part of their workday.  Almost three-quarters (71%) of Asian-Americans who go online at work do so at least once a day, and almost half (47%) use the Internet several times each workday.  By comparison, about 67% of the total Internet population with work Internet access goes online at least once a day from the office.

What Asian-Americans do online

Given Asian-Americans’ enthusiastic embrace of Internet tools, it follows that they are actively engaged on a daily basis with some of the Net’s most popular activities.  Just over three-fifths (61%) of the Asian-American Internet population sends or receives an email on an average day.  The Web’s most popular activity is done on a daily basis by only half (51%) of the white online population, by a third (32%) of African-American users, and by 39% of Hispanics online. 

Asian-Americans have tried most Internet activities at the same rate as other racial groups, but in many instances, have embraced them much more so than anyone else on a typical day.  This pattern cuts across all the major currents of online activity – whether it is for fun, for simple informational searches, for information related to major life activities, or for transacting business online.

Online Asian-Americans are voracious consumers of information, especially on a typical day.  The most popular form of information gathering is simply accessing the day’s news – about three-fifths of Internet users of different races have ever gotten the news online.  However, Asian-American users are much more likely to have made getting the news online a part of their daily lives. Just over a third (34%) of users get the news online on a typical day.  In comparison, 22% of white users get the news daily, along with 15% of African-American users and 20% of Hispanics online.  Asian-American users are also more likely than other Internet users to have gotten news on the financial markets, sought travel information, looked up information about their hobbies and gotten political news on a daily basis.  Much like others with Internet access, online Asian-American users frequently turn to the Internet to find the answer to a question. Fully three-quarters of Asian-American users have done so at one time or another, and about a fifth do so on a typical day.

The Internet has also become a major part of the Asian-American users’ work and school life, especially on an average day.  About 68% of Asian-American users have used the Web to do school-related research or as part of their job training; a fifth of them do so on a typical day.  This rate of daily use is twice that of their peers.  African-Americans have also used the Web for schoolwork and job training at a high rate – 65% of black users have done so at one time or another.

Daily information gatherers

Working Asian-Americans have also integrated the Internet into their life on the job. Almost three-fifths (59%) of Asian-American users have done research for work, and about 23% do so on an average day.  Again, this rate of use is higher than their peers’. About half of whites have used the Internet for work research, and 16% of white users do so on a day-today basis. A little under half (47%) of black users have ever done work research, 11% on a daily basis, and half of Hispanic users have done research at work, 15% on a day-to-day basis.

When it comes to the Net’s fun activities, Asian-American users tend to enjoy them at the same rate as whites, blacks and Hispanics, both overall and on a day-to-day basis.  About 60% of Asian-American users surf the Web just for fun, and a little over a quarter (26%) do so on a typical day.  This is just under the percentage (62%) of white users who have done so, and is much less than the 72% of both African-American and Hispanic users who like to surf the Web.  Hispanic and African-American users enjoy playing games online more than Asian-American users do, but Asian-American users almost match their enjoyment of music online. 

Asian-American users are three times as likely to download music and twice as likely to listen to music online on a typical day as a white user.  Given the youthfulness of the Asian, African-American, and Hispanic Internet populations, it follows that there is a strong common tendency toward these fun activities.

Internet use for school and work

Asians online also like to chat online.  While almost a third (32%) have done so at one time or another, 11% participate in chat rooms on a daily basis.  This daily rate of use is more than twice that of white, African-American, and Hispanic users.    Asian-American users are also twice as likely to use Instant Messaging on an average day than anyone else.

Internet activities

Asian-American users also tend to transact business online at a higher rate than anyone else, especially on a daily basis.  Just over half of Asian-American users (54%) have purchased something online.  This is about the same rate as white users, and is higher than the percentage of black and Hispanic users who have done so.  What is more telling, however, is that Asians online purchase something from a Web site on a day-to-day basis at more than twice the rate of their peers.  Asian-American users are also four times as likely to buy and sell stocks online than whites on a typical day, and are three times as likely than both whites and blacks to make a travel reservation online on an average day.

Differences between Asian-American men and Asian-American women online

When comparing the online activities of Asian-Americans who use the Internet, the first thing that stands out is that in virtually every case, Asian-American men engage in online activities at a higher rate than do Asian-American women.  At the same time however, both Asian-American men and Asian-American women are more engaged online on a daily basis than their peers of other races and ethnic groups.

Asian-American women who use the Internet love its “fun” factor.  Almost a third (32%) of Asian-American women users go online on a daily basis to browse just for fun.  At the same time, only a fifth (22%) of Asian-American male users profess to do the same thing.  Browsing for fun is the second most popular daily online activity for Asian-American women after email.  The third most popular daily activity for Asian-American women is getting information about their hobbies – just over a quarter of Asian-American women online on a typical day do so.  This is much higher than their white (15%), African-American (13%) and Hispanic (15%) peers.  Asian-American women online daily are also twice as likely to listen to music than their white women; they are also twice as likely to look for sports information on a typical day as white women. 

Asian-American women online are relatively heavy consumers of financial information.  Almost half (44%) of Asian-American female users have sought financial news at one time or another, and 15% have done so on a typical day.  This daily consumption is twice the rate of white, black, and Hispanic women.  It also follows that Asian-American women like to buy and sell stock online.  Fully 16% of Asian-American women users have ever done so, and 4% do so on a typical day.  This daily usage is twice the rate of Hispanic women, and four times the rate of white and African-American women.

Buying a product through the Internet is another activity Asian-American women have embraced. Just over half (53%) of the Asian-American female Internet population has bought something online, and 7% are doing so on a typical day.  These rates are slightly than the rates at which white and Hispanic women online purchase goods online, and significantly higher than the rate at which black women users shop online.  Asian-American women purchase a product online on a typical day at almost four times the rate at which black women do.

Asian-American men online

Asian-American men are extremely active consumers of online information.  Almost three-quarters (72%) of Asian-American men who use the Internet have ever gotten news online at one point or another.  What is especially telling is that 42% of online Asian-Americans get news on a typical day online. This is significantly higher than their white (27%), black (19%) and Hispanic (24%) peers. 

Their daily consumption of the day’s news online is almost twice that of Asian-American women (24%).  

Activities online - men and women

Asian-American men are also the leading online consumers of financial information, travel information, and political news.  Asian-American men are more than twice as likely to get financial news on the Internet on a daily basis than are black and Hispanic men – and slightly more likely than white men.    Just over half (56%) of Asian-American male Internet users have followed politics and gotten information on issues and candidates while online, and 27% do so on a typical day. That is more than twice the rate at which Hispanic and black men consume political news daily, and significantly higher than the rate at which white men do so on a typical day.  On a side note, Asian-American men consume political information on a daily basis at three times the rate of Asian-American women. 

Asian-American men have also embraced online commerce, much like Asian-American women.  Over half (55%) of Asian-American male Internet users have purchased something online, and 10% do so on a typical day.  This daily purchasing is more than twice the rate at which men of other races shop online.  Asian-American male users also trade stocks online at a relatively higher rate than any other group – just over a third of Asian-American male users (34%) have bought or sold stocks online, and 11% do so on a daily basis.  Again, this typical daily usage is twice that of Hispanic men, almost four times that of white male users, and eleven times the rate at which black men trade stocks online.

Interestingly, while Asian-American male and Asian-American female users have sought health information at one time or another at roughly the same rate (46% vs. 48%), Asian-American men are twice as likely as Asian-American women to be seeking such information on an average day online (10% vs. 5%).  In every other racial group, the women look for health information on a day–to-day basis at a much higher rate.

  1. The survey was conducted in English. Therefore, the term “Asian-American” in this report refers to self-identifying Asian-Americans who speak English.
  2. The figures for whites, African-Americans, and Hispanics come from our survey work in August and September 2001. However, we did not have enough Asian-Americans in those samples to draw statistically significant conclusions. In general, the number of English-speaking Asians online we surveyed in 2001 seemed to be consistent with the figures compiled in 2000. In the remainder of this report, the comparisons between different racial and ethnic groups are drawn entirely from surveys conducted in 2000.