August 27, 2003

Internet Use by Region in the U.S.

Part 4. The Southeast

The population of Internet users has grown strongly in the Southeast in recent years.

Once one of the less-wired regions in the United States, the Southeast has seen strong growth in Internet usage among adults. Internet users in the four states in the region — Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina — stand out in comparison with those in other regions of the country for several reasons:

  • Users in the Southeast are an interesting mix of Web veterans and rookies.
  • They represent one of the more racially and ethnically diverse user groups in the entire country.
  • On an average day, 80% of those who go online do so from home—one of the highest rates of daily home access in the country, and second only to the Pacific Northwest.
  • They feel more strongly than users in most other regions that the Internet has been a boon to their relationships with family and friends.
  • They don’t like to shop online as much as those in other regions. And they are less likely to look for information about hobbies on the Web than users in any other region in the country.

The region, which had lagged in Internet use in 2000, is now at near the national average. Internet usage in the Southeast grew steadily in 2002, to 57% of adults reporting that they use the Internet, just under the national average of 59% of adults. Southeastern Internet penetration grew from 54% of adults in 2001 — nationally, 56% of adults were online in 2001. The 2002 percentage also represents a nine-percentage point increase from the 48% of Southeasterners who had been online in 2000.

Users in the Southeast comprise an interesting mix of Web veterans and rookies, but match the national profile for education and income.

While 42% of users in the Southeast are veterans with more than three years’ experience, 26% are relatively new to the Internet, with a year or less online. Another 32% have at least two years’ experience. Nationally, about 44% of users are veterans with more than three years online, and about 22% are new to the Web, with a year or less; another 34% have at least two years’ experience. Looking at other regions of the country, only the South had a higher proportion of users (28%) with a year or less online. At the same time, the South (36%), the Upper Midwest (40%), and the Industrial Midwest (41%) are the only regions of the country that had lower proportions of veteran users than the Southeast. The Capital region has the highest proportion of veteran users, with 50% of the user population online for three years or more.

Who is online in the Southeast?

The education levels of users in the Southeast almost exactly mirror those of the national user population. About 36% of Southeastern users are college educated, and an additional 30% have had some experience in college. About 29% have at least a high school education, and about 5% of users have less than a high school education.

Nationally, 36% of users have a college degree, about 30% of users have had some college education, an additional 29% have graduated from high school, and about 6% never finished high school. Southeasterners without high school diplomas are about a third less likely to use the Internet than their peers nationally. In the Southeast, about 15% of those without high school diplomas use the Web, compared to 22% nationally.

In terms of household income, most users in the Southeast tend to be solidly middle class. Also, the income distribution of Southeastern users among the income brackets is almost perfectly proportional. Fully 43% earn between $30,000 and $75,000 a year in household income, as compared to 41% of users nationwide. About 23% earn between $30,000 and $50,000 and another 20% earn between $50,000 and $75,000 per year. Meanwhile, 20% of users in the Southeast have high household incomes of $75,000 or more a year, while 20% earn less than $30,000 a year. In the national user population, 23% are high wage earners, and 19% have low incomes under $30,000.10 Of note are that high wage earners in this region are slightly less likely to use the Internet than similar earners nationally – 82% compared to 86% nationally.

The Southeast region has one of the more racially and ethnically diverse user groups in the country. Internet users in the Southeast include slightly more men and seniors.

Proportionately, the four Southeastern states have one of the largest African-American user groups of any region in the country. Fully 14% of users in the Southeastern states are African-American, compared with about 8% of users nationally. Only the National Capital has a larger proportion of African-American users (17%). The South also has a similar proportion of African-American Internet users (14%). Meanwhile, about 75% of users in the Southeast are white, 7% are Hispanic,11 and about 3% come from other races. The proportion of Hispanic users in the Southeast is one of the higher concentrations in the country. The region is far behind California (21% Hispanic users) and the Border States (21%); still, at 7%, the proportion of Hispanic users in the Southeast is almost twice that of the neighboring Southern region (4%). The sizable Hispanic community found in Florida most likely explains this.

The proportion of white users in the Southeast is one of the smallest in the country, higher only than those of California (62% white) and the Border States (67%). Meanwhile, Hispanics in the Southeast are slightly more likely to go online than their peers nationwide, while African-Americans are slightly less likely to do so than their peers.

Internet users in the Southeast include slightly more men and seniors.

The proportion of men (52%) is slightly larger than the proportion of women (48%) in the Southeastern user population. The gender ratio of the national user population is 50-50.

In age, the Southeastern user population closely resembles the breakdown of the national user population. About 15% of Southeasterners using the Internet are young adults between the ages of 18 and 24; another quarter are between 25 and 34; about 27% are between 35 and 44; 19% are between 45 and 54; and about 14% are over 55. Of the 14% of users above 55, about 5% are senior citizens over 65. Compared with other regions of the country, the Southeast has a large proportion of seniors online. Interestingly, young adult users between 18 and 24 are relatively less likely to use the Internet than other adults their age around the country.

About 65% of users in the Southeast hold down full-time jobs, which is about the same as the proportion of users nationally (64%). Another 11% have part-time jobs. Also, about 7% of Southeasterners online are retirees.

Southeasterners enjoy most popular online activities, but are less likely to use the Internet to answer questions. When Southeasterners go online, they enjoy many of the same activities as other users across the country. One difference, however, is that they seem less likely than their peers to turn to the Internet when they need to answer a question. Performing an Internet search to answer a question is one of the Web’s most popular activities, something that 75% of users across the country have done at one time or another. Some 73% of users in the Southeast have done so. In contrast, users in New England are much more likely to have done so – fully 89% have performed an Internet search.

Using email is the Web’s most popular activity – almost nine in ten users (88%) across the country use email. This enthusiasm for emailing is shared by users in the Southeast – 89% have sent or received an email. Also, about 59% of users in the Southeast have gotten news online; 38% have sought financial information; about 56% have looked for information about health-related matters; about 43% use the Internet for research at their job; 73% have gone online to look for information related to their hobby; about 61% have gone online “just for fun”; and 42% use the Internet to buy something.

Compared with users in other regions, Southeasterners to tend to favor some activities online more than others. Shopping online is frequently touted as a common Internet activity, but only 45% of users nationally have done this. The 42% of Southeasterners who have bought something through a Web site represent one of the smallest proportions of any region in the country. Only users in the Upper Midwest (37%) and the Midwest (36%) are as unlikely to have shopped on the Net. This is probably because shopping online is most often an activity of veteran Internet users, and these three regions have proportionally more new users than other regions of the country. The region with the highest proportion of Web shoppers, New England (55%), also has a high proportion of veteran users with more than three years’ experience online.

Looking for information online related to a hobby is one of the Web’s most popular activities – fully 78% of users nationally have done this. However, at 73%, the proportion of Southeastern users who have looked for hobby information online gives the region the lowest proportion of hobby seekers of any in the country. By comparison, 83% of users in California have included the Internet in the pursuit of their hobbies.

The region’s users are least likely to go online on a typical day. About 55% of Internet users in the Southeast are likely to go online on a typical day, slightly less than the national rate (57%). In fact, this is among the lowest rates of any region in the country. The South has the lowest proportion (51%) of users going online on an average day; likewise, about 55% of the users in both the Industrial Midwest and the Upper Midwest use the Internet daily. By comparison, those in the Pacific Northwest are the heaviest daily users – about 63% of them are online on a typical day.

Users are more likely to log on from home than those in other parts of the country.

About four out of five users (82%) in the country use a standard phone line when they connect to the Internet from home. About 5% have a DSL line, and about 10% have a high-speed cable modem. Users in the Southeast connect from home in much the same proportions – 81% use a standard dial-up connection, about 5% have DSL, and 10% use cable modems.

Nationally, about 86% of users log on from home, while about 50% have done so from their place of work. In the Southeast, users are slightly more likely to have home access – 87% of users said they had logged from home at one time or another. Meanwhile, about 49% of online Southeasterners use the Internet at work.

On an average day, about 80% of users in the Southeast who log on do so from home. This is somewhat higher than the proportion of users nationally (76%) who do so. This rate of daily home access to the Internet in the Southeast is one of the highest in the country, trailing only the 84% of home users in the Pacific Northwest who log on from home on a typical day. Meanwhile, about 40% of users who access the Internet on a typical day in the Southeast do from the office. This proportion is the same as the 40% of users nationally who do the same thing.

The number of times per day and the amount of time spent online on a typical day by users in the Southeast are similar to the national averages. About 34% of Southeasterners go online several times a day; an additional 30% go online about once a day (this is the highest proportion of any region in the country). An additional 17% log on about three to five times a week; about 10% go online once or twice a week; and about 6% use the Internet less often than that. Nationally, about 37% of users log on several times a day; about a quarter (26%) go online at least once a day; about 16% use the Internet three to five times a week; about 12% log on once or twice a week; and 6% go online less than weekly.

When users in the Southeast go online on an average day, about 58% of them will spend an hour or less in cyberspace. About 23% will stay on for thirty minutes or less, while 35% will spend between thirty minutes to an hour online. An additional 10% will spend between one and two hours online; 15% will spend two to three hours on the Web; 6% will stay online for three to four hours; and 11%, the heaviest users, will stay logged on for four or more hours. All of these proportions are similar to the national averages.

Southeasterners find the Internet valuable in keeping in touch with friends and family. 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.

Users in the Southeast are pretty sure about one thing: The Internet has been a boon to their relationships with their friends. About 41% of users said that the Internet had improved connections to their friends “a lot.” An additional 25% said they had seen “some” improvement. The 41% who had seen “a lot” of improvement represent the largest proportion of users to say so of any region in the country, and that figure is 7 percentage points higher than the national average.

Southeasterners are just as enthusiastic about the Internet when it comes to their connections to members of their family. About 36% said that the Internet improved connections to their family “a lot,” compared with 31% of users nationally. An additional 20% said they had seen “some” improvement; 24% of users nationally said the same thing. The 36% of Southeasterners who felt that the Internet had been a significant boon to their family relationships represent the second highest proportion of any region in the country to say so, trailing only the 38% of users in the Mountain states who said the same thing.

Going online to look for health-care information is one of the more popular Internet activities. It has been established in several Pew Internet Project reports that online health information has been a boon to many users and has helped people make important health-care decisions. Users in the Southeast wholeheartedly agree. About 43% of Southeastern users said that the Internet had improved a lot or somewhat their ability to get health information. About 18% noted “a lot” of improvement. The 43% rate of users who noted an improvement is about 7 percentage points higher than the national average (36%), and only matched by users in the South, where 43% of users said the Internet had helped them in their ability to get health-care information.

Southeasterners are not as active in shopping online as those in other regions. Their feelings about whether the Internet helps their ability to shop reflect that. About half (50%) of users in the Southeast said that the Internet had not helped their ability to shop “at all.” This is the second-highest regional proportion of users to say so, behind the 51% of users in the Upper Midwest who agree, and 6 percentage points higher than the national average (44%). Meanwhile, about 32% of users in the Southeast noted some or a lot of improvement in their ability to shop because of the Internet. About 34% of users nationally said the same thing.

Users in the Southeast agree with their peers across the country that the Internet hasn’t been much help in improving the way they manage their finances. About 59% of users in the Southeast said that the Internet had helped “not at all,” which is the same proportion of users nationally who said the same thing. About 28% noted any sort of improvement, slightly higher than the 27% of users nationally who said the same thing.

About half (51%) of users in the Southeast say that the Internet has helped them a lot in their ability to learn new things. An additional 28% said the Internet has helped somewhat. The proportion of users who said the Internet helped a lot is one of the highest in the country, and is 4 percentage points higher than the national average. Only the 57% of users in the Border States and the 52% of users in the Capital Region were more enthusiastic on this point.

Southeasterners don’t use the Internet for their hobbies as much as users in other regions of the country. User opinions on how helpful the Internet has been to the pursuit of hobbies vary widely by region. While 35% of users in the Pacific Northwest say that the Internet has improved their ability to pursue a hobby a lot, only 16% of users in the Upper Midwest agree with them. The 19% of users in the Southeast who say the same thing fall between those two extremes, and the rate is about 3 percentage points lower than the national average of 22%. An additional 29% of users in the Southeast noted somewhat of an improvement due to the Internet – the same proportion as for the national user population.

There has been growth in the online population since 2000, but little change in demographics. In 2000, about 48% of adults in the Southeast had been online. By 2001, the percentage had increased to 54%, a significant increase. Otherwise, there were no significant changes in the demographic makeup of the Southeast user population.

In terms of online activities, there was a drop across the board between 2000 and 2001, in some cases rather significantly. Southeasterners were much less likely to have sought financial information, performed online research for their job, gone online “just for fun,” or gone online to answer a question in 2001 than they were in 2000. The drop in looking for financial information mirrored a similar finding among users all over the country.

There were some changes in online usage patterns in the Southeast, including a strong increase in the number of users accessing the Web from home. There were also small upticks in the percentage of users accessing the Internet from both home and from work on an average day in 2001.

Some popular Web sites in the Southeast

The table below lists the top five Web sites in Miami and Atlanta 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 Miami’s Favorite Web sites Some of Atlanta’s Favorite Web sites
  1. 17% 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.