August 27, 2003

Internet Use by Region in the U.S.

Part 3. The National Capital Region

The National Capital is another of the country’s more wired areas.

The National Capital Region is one of the most wired areas in the United States, and Internet users in the region (Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia) stand out from those in other parts of the country for several reasons:

  • They are among the most experienced users in the entire country.
  • They are wealthier and more educated than the national average.
  • They include the highest population of African-American Internet users in the nation (17%).
  • They are more likely than their peers elsewhere in the nation to get news online, look for financial information, or seek help with their health. But they are the least likely to use the Net to look up the answer to a question than users in other regions.
  • About 52% of those who use the Internet at work connect on an average day, the greatest proportion of workplace access of any region. Conversely, the region has the lowest rate of daily home use of the Net.
  • The region’s Internet users are probably the most enthusiastic Internet users in the country when it comes to assessing the impact of the Net on activities across the board.

The National Capital is another of the country’s more wired areas.

In 2002, 65% of adults in the National Capital have used the Internet, making it one of the most wired regions in the country. Nationally, about 59% of adults have been online. This represents a substantial increase from the 58% of adults over 18 in the region who reported in 2001 that they were Internet users. In 2000, about 53% of adults in the Capital region were online, compared with 50% of adults across the country.

The user population in the Capital region is the most experienced of any region in the United States and is also well educated and relatively wealthy.

Just about half of National Capital users (50%) are Web veterans with more than three years’ experience. Nationally, about 44% of the adult Internet population has been online for that long. An additional 34% of users in the National Capital have at least two years of experience, while about 16% have a year or less online. Only California (49%) and the Pacific Northwest (50%) have user populations that are as experienced as the one in the National Capital. At the same time, the region has one of the smallest proportions of users (5%) with less than six months’ online, a distinction it shares with New England (5%), the Lower Midwest (5%), the Pacific Northwest (6%), and California (6%).

Who’s Online in the Capital Region

The National Capital’s Internet users are among the most educated in the country. About 41% possess a college diploma or higher degree, tied with New England (41%). Nationally, about 36% of users have a similar level of education. An additional 29% of users in the National Capital have had some college experience, while 26% have a high school diploma and about 3% have less than a high-school education. All of these proportions are in line with the national averages. However, the region has one of the smallest proportions of users without a high school diploma, tied with the Upper Midwest (3%). Those without high school degrees in the National Capital region are much less likely than their peers nationally to use the Internet – 14% have gone online in the region, as opposed to 22% nationally. At the same time, almost 9 in 10 (88%) college graduates in the region have gone online, somewhat higher than the 82% of college graduates nationally who are online.

Users in the National Capital are among the wealthiest in the nation, and there is also a tiny cohort of low-income Web users. The 31% of users who earn more than $75,000 a year in household income is the second largest such group in the country, behind the 33% of users in New England with similar household incomes. Nationally, about 23% of those online earn that much. At the same time, only 15% of users in the National Capital earn less than $30,000 a year, well under the 19% of users nationally who earn the same amount, and also the smallest proportion of such users anywhere in the country. About 21% of users in the region earn between $30,000 and $50,000 a year, and another 16% earn between $50,000 and $75,000. Nationally, 22% and 19% of users earn the same amounts respectively.8

The National Capital has the highest proportion of African-American Internet users.

Racially, the region is notable for having the highest proportion of African-American Internet users of any region in the country. Fully 17% of the user population is African-American; by comparison, only about 8% of the national user population is African-American. In the National Capital, 75% of users are white, about 5% are Hispanic,9 and 4% come from other racial and ethnic backgrounds. The only regions of the country that have as high a proportion of African-Americans in their user populations are the South and the Southeast, which are both 14% African-American. Hispanics in the National Capital are much more likely to be online than Hispanics nationally – 61% compared to 54%.

The region’s users reflect their peers nationwide in gender and age.

The gender ratio of the region’s user population is split exactly between men and women, matching the makeup of the national user population. However, women in the Capital region are slightly more likely to be using the Internet than American women overall.

In age, Internet users in the National Capital break down in the same way as the national user population. About 15% of users in the region are young adults between 18 and 24; a quarter (25%) are between the ages of 25 and 34; another quarter (25%) are between the ages of 35 and 44; about 19% are between 45 and 54; and about 16% are over 55. Compared with other regions of the country, the National Capital has one of the smallest proportions (4%) of senior citizens (those who are over 65) online. Only the South (3%) and the Mid-Atlantic (4%) have as small a proportion of senior citizens in their user populations.

More of the region’s users work full time.

The National Capital region has the highest proportion of users (70%) who hold down full-time jobs of any region in the country, and this proportion is 6 percentage points higher than the national average (64%). Meanwhile, 12% hold down part-time employment.

For the most part, Internet users in the National Capital engage in the same online activities as their peers across the country.

However, users in the National Capital area are slightly more likely to get news online, to have looked for online financial information, and to seek information about their health. On the other hand, users in the region are less likely to use the Internet to look up the answer to a question than their peers across the country.

When it comes to looking up information online to answer a question, about 75% of Internet users across the country have done this, while 70% of users in the National region have done so.

Sending and receiving email has always been the Internet’s most popular activity, and 88% of users across the country in 2001 had done this. A similar 88% of users in the National Capital use email. Meanwhile, 43% have sought financial information; about 59% have looked for information about a health concern on the Web; about 40% have done online research for their job; a little over three quarters of users (78%) have looked for information about a hobby; about 65% have gone online “just for fun,” and about 44% have bought something on the Internet.

As for reading news on the Web, 62% of the region’s users do this, on par with users in the Border States (64%), the South (63%), and the Mid-Atlantic (61%). The region’s 62% rate is 9 percentage points higher than the rate for the Pacific Northwest, the region of the country with the lowest rate of online news usage. When it comes to getting financial information online (43%), no other region in the country has done so as much as the National Capital, although users in the South and in California are almost as enthusiastic (both 41%). Likewise, the only regions that are as enthusiastic about looking for health information on the Internet are New England (57% of users), the South (61%), and the Midwest (59%).

Going online for no particular reason, or “just for fun,” is also relatively popular among users in the Capital region. The 65% of users in the National Capital area who have done this do not make it the leading region for this activity; users in the South and the Lower Midwest like this activity the most. However, this proportion is still 16 percentage points higher than the proportion of users in the Pacific Northwest, and 12 percentage points higher than in the Mountain States. In a previous Pew Internet Project report, “Getting serious online,” it was found that more experienced users, such as those found in the National Capital and the Pacific Northwest, tend to spend less time online, and to log on for specific reasons. On the flipside, less experienced users are more likely to surf (and explore) the Web.

National Capital users log on more regularly than most. On a typical day, about 59% of the Internet users in the Capital region are online. This is slightly higher than the national average of 57% and is among the highest of any region in the country. Only the 63% of users in the Pacific Northwest and the 60% of users in New England are online more often on a typical day. Also by comparison, the 59% of users going online on an average day in the National Capital is 8 percentage points higher than the 51% of users in the South doing the same – the region with the lowest daily access in the country.

More users in the National Capital access the Internet from work than anywhere else, but the region’s typical user still logs on from home using a dial-up connection.

When users in the National Capital hook up to the Web from home, 85% of them do so via a standard dial-up connection, the second highest rate of any region (in the South, 86% of users have a dial-up connection). An additional 8% have a cable modem, and about 4 % use a DSL line. By comparison, 82% of users nationally use a standard dial-up modem, 10% have a cable modem, and 5% have a DSL line.

In the National Capital, about 87% of Internet users go online from home, while about 56% say they connect to the Internet while at work, the highest proportion of users in the country. The proportion of home users in the Capital region is similar to the 86% of users nationally who go online at home. On the other hand, the region’s users are much more likely to go online at the office – nationally, 50% of Internet users use the Web at work.

When they are online on a typical day, users in the region make heavy use of the Internet from their workplace. About 52% of those who use the Internet in this region on any given day connect from the office. This is significantly higher than the 40% of users nationally who do so, and the region has the heaviest average daily workplace use of the Internet of any region in the country. No other region even comes close; in second place is New England (44%). Meanwhile, about 71% of users in the Capital region who access the Web on an average day do so from home, about 5 percentage points lower than the national average of 76%. In fact, the region has the lowest rate of daily home use of the Internet of any region in the country. The Pacific Northwest has the highest, at 84% of users.

Users in the Capital region are the most likely to access the Internet several times a day of any regional user population in the country. Fully 45% go online several times a day, compared with 37% nationwide. An additional 23% of users in the Capital region go online at least once a day; about 16% go online 3-5 times a week; 10% go online once or twice a week; and 4% go online less often.

National Capital users are online for about the same amount of time as others around the country.

On a typical day, about 57% of users in the Capital region who are online spend an hour or less on the Web. About 35% spend 30 minutes to an hour online, while 23% will spend 30 minutes or less using the Internet. Nationally, about 62% of users spend an hour or less online (36% spend about 30 minutes to an hour, while 26% of users spend less than 30 minutes online). Meanwhile, about 11% of users in the region will typical spend one to two hours online; 11% will spend two to three hours; about 6% will stay online for three to four hours; and 13% of users will spend more than fours on the Internet.

Users in the National Capital are the most enthusiastic about how the Internet’s positive effects on their lives. In March 2000, users were asked several questions about the extent to which the Internet had helped them improve aspects of their daily life – shopping, getting health information, managing their finances, connecting with family and friends, learning new things, and pursuing a hobby.

The National Capital region’s Internet users are probably the most enthusiastic users in the country – in all the aspects of life that were asked about, these users noted improvements across the board, most often at higher rates than their peers elsewhere.

Users in the region are clear about one thing: The Internet has definitely improved their ability to shop. About 43% of users say that their ability to shop has been improved a lot or to some extent by the Internet. About 34% of users nationally would agree. Compared with users in other regions, those in the region are the most positive about this. About 19% noted a significant improvement, second only to the 25% or users in the Pacific Northwest who said the same thing; meanwhile, 24% of National Capital users said they saw some improvement in their shopping ability.

Users in the region are also very enthusiastic about how the Internet has helped them maintain and grow their connections to their friends and family. About 62% of users in the region said the Internet had improved their connections with other family members to some extent or a lot, while 68% said their connections to their friends had similarly improved. By comparison, about 55% of users nationally said they saw such improvement with their family members, and 61% said they experienced the same with their friends. Users in the National Capital are the most enthusiastic in the country about the way the Internet has improved their connections to their friends; and only users in the Pacific Northwest (68%) were more enthusiastic about how the Internet had helped their connections with their families.

The Internet is one of the best places to go if you want to learn something new, and Internet users in the region wholeheartedly agree. Fully 85% of them said the Internet had improved their ability to learn new things a lot or somewhat, as compared to 79% of users nationally who said the same thing. Fully 52% said that there had been a lot of improvement, 5 percentage points higher than the national average and second only to users in the Border States (where 57% saw a lot of improvement) in their enthusiasm.

When it comes to getting health-care information, users in the National Capital share the same feelings as users across the country about the Internet’s ability to help them. About 36% said the Internet had improved their ability to get health information either a lot or somewhat. Nationally, a similar 36% said the same thing.

Managing finances online is not a big deal to users in the National Capital. Fully 61% said the Internet had not helped in any way their ability to handle their personal finances, about 2 percentage points more than the national average. About 26% said that there had been a lot of or some improvement, which is about the national average.

There were some minor changes in Internet usage patterns in the National Capital region, both upward and downward, between 2000 and 2001.

For the most part, the demographic make-up of the user population remained the same. There were, however, some interesting drops in Internet activity levels between 2000 and 2001. The use of email by users in the region fell slightly, with larger drops in the use of the Internet for job research and for trying to research the answer to questions. Online shopping also fell slightly.

Usage patterns also remained more or less the same between 2000 and 2001.

Favorite Web Sites in Washington, DC

The table below lists the top five Web sites in Washington, DC, in April 2003. Those sites are also the top five in the nation and they do not vary much region-by-region. In addition, the table highlights several regional sites that are in the top 25 most heavily used sites in the region during that month. A full listing of the top 25 sites in the region can be found in the spreadsheet that is available here:  http://www.pewinternet.org/releases/release.asp?id=66

Some of Washington DC’s Favorite Web sites
  1. 18% 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.