August 27, 2003

Internet Use by Region in the U.S.

Part 10. Mountain States

The Mountain States area is one of the most highly wired regions of the country.

By 2002, the Mountain States region (Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming) had become one of the most highly wired in the entire country. Fully 64% of adults eighteen and over were Internet users. The only regions with a higher proportion of users are the Pacific Northwest, California, and New England, with 68%, 65%, and 66% of adults online respectively. At 64%, the rate of access in the Mountain States is 5 percentage points higher than the national average of 59%. This rate of access is also the result of strong growth in the size of the cohort of Internet users in the Rockies, up from 61% in 2001 and 56% of adults in 2000. Internet users in the six states of this region also share several distinctions:

  • They make up one of the most experienced user populations in the country.
  • The proportion of women Internet users is one of the highest in the country; the proportion of African-American users is the lowest.
  • Except for email, users in the Mountain States engage in many of the Internet’s most popular activities at a lower rate than their peers nationwide.
  • The Mountain States have the highest rate of home access to the Internet of any region in the country.

Mountain States Internet users are a lot like other American users, except they have slightly more experience online. The Mountain States are home to some of the nation’s most veteran users; fully 47% of those online in the Rockies have been using the Internet for three or more years. While this proportion is only slightly higher than national average of 44%, only the Capital region, California, and the Pacific Northwest have larger proportions of veteran users. Meanwhile, 32% of users in the Rockies have been online for two to three years, which is just under the national average (34%). At the same time, 20% of users in the Rockies are relatively new to the Internet: About 13% have about a year’s worth of online experience, and about 7% are Web rookies with six months or less online. Nationally, the proportions are much the same: 8% are Internet rookies, and 15% of users have been online for about 12 months.

There are fewer wealthy Internet users in the Mountain States than elsewhere in the country.

In terms of household income and education, Internet users in the Rocky Mountain States tend to mirror their peers across the nation. About 35% of users in the region possess college degrees, which is just under the national average (36%). Likewise, 32% have had some college experience, about 28% are high school graduates, and 5% have less than a high school education. These proportions are virtually the same as the national averages, which show 30% of users with some college experience, 29% with a high school diploma, and about 6% without a high school education. Of note is the relatively low proportion of college graduates; only the South (28%) and the Border States (31%) have smaller proportions of college-educated users. At 35%, the Rockies are well behind New England (41%) and the Capital Region (41%). Looked at another way, those Mountain state residents with less education (those without high school diplomas and those who have graduated from high school) are more likely to have used the Internet than similarly educated people nationwide. Almost a third (31%) of Rocky Mountain residents without a high school diploma have used the Internet, compared with 22% of such people nationally. There is also a five-percentage point gap among high school graduates.

Who is online in the mountain states?

In terms of household income, Internet users in the Mountain states tend to be concentrated in the middle brackets. In fact, the Mountain states have the smallest proportion of wealthy users (those who live in households earning more than $75,000 per year) of any region in the country. At the same time, there are also an equally modest percentage of low-income users. However, about 50% of users in the Rockies are concentrated in the middle-income brackets – 27% earn between $30,000 and $50,000 per year, and another 24% live in households earning between $50,000 and $75,000 a year. By comparison, 41% of users nationwide are found in the middle-income brackets (22% earn between thirty and fifty thousand, and 19% earn between fifty and seventy five thousand a year). The proportion of users in the Rockies living in households earning between $50,000 and $75,000 a year is the largest in the country. At the same time, 18% of users in the Mountain states earn modest incomes under $30,000 a year, just under the 19% of users nationally who earn the same amount. At the other end of the scale, only about 18% of users in the Rockies are high wage earners of $75,000 or more. This is the smallest proportion of such users in the country and is well under the percentage of similar users nationally (23%).22

A large proportion of the users in the region are white. More Internet users in the region are female than male.

The Mountain States have one of the larger proportions of white users in the country, as well as the smallest proportion of African-American users. About 85% of users in the Rockies are white, about 7 percentage points higher than the national average of 78%. The Upper Midwest has the largest proportion of white users (93%), while California has the smallest (62%). Only 1% of users in the Mountain States are African-American, miniscule compared to the national average of 8%. Regions such as the Upper Midwest (1%), and New England (1%) have similarly tiny proportions of black users. The National Capital region (17%) has the largest proportion. Meanwhile, 9% of users in the Mountain States are Hispanic23, equaling the national average of 9%; 5% of users are of other races and ethnicities. Hispanics in the Rocky Mountain states are also more likely to use the Internet than Hispanics across the country. Some 63% of Hispanics in the Mountain States have gone online, making them, in relative terms, the most wired ethnic group in the region. On the flip side, African-Americans in the region are less likely than the national average to use the Internet. Only about at third (33%) of African-Americans in the Rockies have gone online, compared with about 42% of African-Americans nationally.

More Internet users in the region are female than male.

The user population of the Mountain States includes more women than men. About 53% of Internet users in the region are women, the second largest proportion in the country (the leader is the Mid-Atlantic region, with 54%). Nationally, the ratio is 50-50. Women in the Rockies are also more likely to use the Web than other women across the country, as well as more likely than their male counterparts in the Mountain states. Some 62% of women are online in the Rockies, compared with 54% of women nationally. At the same time, 60% of men use the Internet in the Mountain states.

The age breakdown of Web users in the Mountain States is similar to that of the national user population.

In this region, 20% of users are between 18 and 24, 19% are between 25 and 34, about 25% are aged 35 to 44, about 19% are between 45 and 54, and 17% are over 55 (including 5% who are seniors over 65). Of note is that the proportion of young adult users between 18 and 24 in the Mountain States is among the largest in the country. While slightly larger than the national average of 17%, the proportion of such young users in the region is tied with California (20%) for the lead. Also notable is the rather large proportion (17%) of users over 55 in the Mountain States. Nationally, 14% of users are that age, but only the Pacific Northwest (18%) has a larger proportion than the Mountain States. The proportions of users in the middle age brackets in the Rockies are similar to the averages; nationally, 23% are between 25 and 34, 26% are aged 35 to 44, and 20% are between 45 and 54.

In terms of employment, about 60% of users in the Mountain States work full time and 14% have part-time jobs. Nationally, 64% of users are employed full time and 14% part time. The proportion of users with full-time jobs is among the lowest in the country, perhaps reflecting the preponderance of younger adults and seniors in the user population.

Users in the Mountain States engage in some of the Web’s most popular activities at lower rates than their peers across the country. However, users in the region are very enthusiastic about email.

Users in the Mountain States engage in some of the Web’s most popular activities at lower rates than their peers across the country.

Whether they are looking up health information, catching up on news, or buying something online, users in the Mountain States appear to engage in some of the Web’s most popular activities at a lower rate than their peers across the country.

However, users in the region are very enthusiastic about email.

Email is by far the most popular activity on the Web, and users in the Mountain States have wholeheartedly embraced it. About 91% of users there have email accounts, the largest proportion of any region in the country (the proportion for the Pacific Northwest is also 91%). Nationally, about 88% of users have sent or received email.

The act of getting the news online, while popular across the country, is not as common in the Mountain States. Only about 51% of users in the region have done this, well below the national average of 59%, and the lowest rate of any region in the country. The only region with as small a proportion of online news gatherers is the Pacific Northwest, with 53%. By comparison, 64% of users in the Border States have gotten the news on the Web.

Searching for financial information online is not among the Web’s more popular activities; only about 38% of users nationally say they have done this. In the Mountain States, this activity is also relatively unpopular. About 35% of users have sought financial information on the Web, and only the Lower Midwest (31%) has a smaller proportion of users who have done this. At the other end of the spectrum, 43% of users in the National Capital region have gone online for financial information.

Going on to the Web to look for information about health is an increasingly popular Internet activity, and about 56% of users nationally have done this. However, only 47% of users in the Mountain States have done so, easily the smallest proportion in the country. Looking at other regions, only in the Pacific Northwest have less than half (49%) of Internet users sought health information online. By comparison, 61% of users in the South use the Web to get health information.

Surfing the Internet “just for fun” is another of the Web’s more popular activities, but again it is not as prevalent in the region. While 61% of users nationally have gone online for no particular reason, only 53% of users in the Mountain States have done so. Only users in the Pacific Northwest, at 49%, are less inclined to pass time idly online. On the other hand, 70% of users in the Midwest have gone online for no particular reason.

There are a few activities that Mountain States Web users enjoy at the same rate as their peers across the country.

When it comes to buying things on the Internet, about 45% of users nationwide have done this. In the Mountain States, the proportion of users who have bought something from a Web site is exactly the same. The proportion of users using the Web to purchase things runs from a high of 55% in New England to a low of 37% in the Midwest.

Getting information from the Internet about one’s favorite hobbies is one of the Net’s most popular activities. Fully 78% of users nationally have gone online at one time or another to seek information about their hobbies, a rate equaled in the Mountain States. At the same time, this cohort of online hobbyists is exceeded only by users in California (83%), the Mid-Atlantic, and New England (both 81%).

Using the Web at work for research on the job is a fairly common activity, and about 41% of users nationally have done this. In the Mountain States, 39% of users use the Web for this purpose. Along the same lines, 74% of users in the Rockies have gone online when they needed the answer to a particular question.

  1. 16% of respondents refused to divulge their household income. Of the entire sample, 17% of respondents refused to answer this question.
  2. Hispanics are self-identified and speak English. Hispanics referred to in this report were surveyed as part of the Pew Project’s general daily tracking poll. Hispanics who speak English tend to skew higher in terms of Internet use.