August 27, 2003

Internet Use by Region in the U.S.

Part 7. Upper Midwest

The Upper Midwest is close to the national average in the percentage of its population that uses the Internet.

Internet users in the four Upper Midwest states (Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and South Dakota) stand out against those in other regions of the country for several reasons:

  • They are more educated than the national average.
  • The region has undergone strong growth in the number of adults using the Internet, from 49% in 2000 to 55% in 2001 to 59% in 2002.
  • The Upper Midwest has the largest percentage of users with a middle range of online experience (two to three years using the Internet).
  • The region has a high proportion of users aged 35 to 54 but has one of the nation’s smallest proportions of younger users (ages 18 to 24).
  • Compared with users in other regions of the country, Upper Midwesterners are unlikely to credit the Internet with making substantial improvements in their lives. And they are even lukewarm about the Internet’s impact on improving connections with family and friends.

As in several other regions, Internet penetration in the Upper Midwest has steadily increased among adults since 2000.

In 2002, 59% of adults in the Upper Midwest were Internet users, a strong increase from 55% in 2001 and 49% of adults in 2000. Nationally, Internet penetration grew from 51% in 2000 to 56% in 2001 to 59% in 2002.

Most Internet users in the Upper Midwest have a moderate amount of experience online.

The user population in the Upper Midwest is not one of the nation’s most experienced, nor is it one of the most inexperienced. In fact, the Upper Midwest has the nation’s largest group (37%) of users in the country with a middle range of online experience – two to three years (nationally, about 34% have a similar level of Web use). Forty percent of users in the Upper Midwest are Web veterans with more than three years online. That is about 4 percentage points under the national average of 44%. About 14% of users in the region have about a year’s online experience, and about 9% are Internet rookies with less than six months online. Nationally, about 15% of users have about a year’s experience, and about 8% are Internet novices. Compared with other regions of the country, the Upper Midwest has one of the smallest proportions of Web veterans, second only to the South, where 36% of Internet users have been online for more than three years. By comparison, 50% of users in the Capital region have that level of Internet experience.

Who is onlin in the Upper Midwest?

Levels of household income and education are strong determinants of Internet usage, and Internet users in the Upper Midwest are generally well educated and enjoy relatively high incomes. About 40% of Internet users in the region possess a college degree or an advanced graduate degree. This is about 4 percentage points higher than the national average of 36% and is one of the highest proportions of any region in the country, trailing only New England (41%), the Capital region (41%), and California (40%). An additional 26% of users in the Upper Midwest have had some college experience, while about 30% possess a high school diploma and 3% have less than a high school education. Nationally, about 30% of users have had some college class work, 29% have a high school degree, and about 6% never finished high school. The proportion of those without a high school degree in the Upper Midwest is the smallest of any region in the country, tied with the 3% in the National Capital region. Of note is that people from the Upper Midwest who have not completed college are less likely to use the Internet than their peers nationally – with the gap most pronounced with those who have some college experience.

The Upper Midwest has a substantial proportion of middle-income users. The region has the highest proportion of white Internet users of any in the country.

The Upper Midwest has a substantial proportion of middle-income users.

About 45% of users there fall into the middle income bracket (earning household incomes between $30,000 and $75,000 a year), with 24% earning between $30,000 and $50,000 per year, and another 21% earning between $50,000 and $75,000 a year. Nationally, 41% of users earn middle class household incomes (22% earn between $30,000 and $50,000, while 19% earn between $50,000 and $75,000 a year). Meanwhile, 18% of users in the Upper Midwest take home modest household incomes under $30,000 a year, just under the national average of 19%. At the other end of the scale, 24% of Upper Midwesterners online earn over $75,000 a year, just over the national average of 23%.15

The region has the highest proportion of white Internet users of any in the country.

Ethnically, the user population in the Upper Midwest is overwhelmingly white. Compared with the national average of 78%, 93% of users in the Upper Midwest are white. The proportion of African-American users – just under 2% – is less than a quarter of the national proportion of 8%. Hispanics16 make up only 3% of users in the Upper Midwest, one-third the national average of 9%, and 3% of the user population is composed of other ethnicities, slightly under the national average of 5%. In all, the Upper Midwest has the smallest proportion of minority Internet users in the country. This fact is best explained by the small minority populations that live in the states of the Upper Midwest. At the same time, while the Hispanic Internet population in the Upper Midwest may be small, Hispanics in general there are much more likely to use the Internet than Hispanics nationally. Two-thirds of Hispanics in the Upper Midwest use the Internet, compared with 54% nationally.

Women in the region are more likely to be online and men are less likely.

The ratio of male to female users in the Upper Midwest is 50-50, the same as for the national user population. Interestingly, women in the Upper Midwest are more likely to be Internet users than the national average – while at the same time men in the region are less likely than men nationally.

A higher proportion of Internet users in the region are middle-aged.

Compared with the age breakdown of the national Internet user population, the Upper Midwest has a higher proportion of users between the ages of 35 and 54. About half (49%) of the user population in the Upper Midwest is in this age bracket, about 3 percentage points higher than the nation as a whole. In the Upper Midwest, about 27% of users are between 35 and 44 and about 22% are between 45 and 54. Meanwhile, 15% are younger users between 18 and 24, 22% are between 25 and 34, and older users aged 55 and over account for about 14%. The proportion of younger users between 18 and 24 in the Upper Midwest is 2 percentage points lower than the national proportion and is one of the smallest in the country, trailing only New England (12%). Nationally, about 17% of users are between 18 and 24, an additional 23% are between 25 and 34, about 26% are between 35 and 44, 20% are between 45 and 54, and about 14% are over the age of 55. Meanwhile, younger adults in the Upper Midwest are much more likely to use the Internet than their peers across the country. At the same time, older adults there are less likely.

About 63% of Internet users in the Upper Midwest are employed full time, just under the national average of 64%. About 17% of users in the Industrial Midwest work part time, compared to 14% of users nationally.

Surfing the Net for fun, online shopping, and Internet news are not as popular in the Upper Midwest as elsewhere.

For the most part, Internet users in the Upper Midwest enjoy the Web’s more popular activities at the same rate as users in other regions of the country. However, there are a few notable differences.

Going online “just for fun,” or for no real reason, is not as popular an Internet pastime in the Upper Midwest as it is in other parts of the country. About 55% of users there have done this, compared with 61% of users across the country. In fact, only users in the Mountain states (53%) and in the Pacific Northwest (49%) are less likely than users in the Upper Midwest to browse cyberspace for the pleasure of it. Interestingly, Internet users in the next-door states of the Midwest are the most likely in the country (69%) to go online just for fun.

Users in the Upper Midwest are also wary of shopping online. Only about 37% of users there have bought something online, 8 percentage points lower than the national average of 45%. Only users in the Midwest (37%) are as skittish of buying things through online retailers. By comparison, 55% of users in New England have shopped online.

Getting the news online is not as common an activity in the Upper Midwest as it is in other parts of the country. Just over half (53%) of users there have sought news online, while about 59% of users across the country have done so. Only users in the Mountain States (51%) and the Pacific Northwest (53%) are less likely to have gotten the news online. At the other end of the scale, 64% of users in the Border States have gotten news on the Web.

When it comes to other popular activities on the Web, users in the Upper Midwest engage in them at much the same rate as their peers across the country. The Web’s most popular activity, email, has been used by 88% of those online in the Upper Midwest – nationally, the same proportion has used email. Meanwhile, about 41% of users in the Upper Midwest use the Internet to look for financial information; about 58% have looked for information regarding their health on the Web, 41% use the Internet to perform research at their jobs, 76% have gone online to look for information about their hobby, and about 72% have turned to the Web to look for the answer to a question they have. Nationally, 38% of users have sought financial information online, 56% have looked for health information, 41% use the Internet for research at their job, 78% of users use the Web to learn more about their hobby, and about 75% of users across the country have turned to the Internet to answer a question.

Those in the Upper Midwest are slightly less likely to access the Internet on a typical day. On an average day, about 55% of Internet users in the Upper Midwest venture into cyberspace, slightly under the national average of 57%. This places the region toward the lower end of the scale and is comparable with the Southeast and the Industrial Midwest, where a similar 55% of users will log on to the Net on a typical day. In the South, only 51% of users will do so, whereas 60% of users in New England and about 63% of users in the Pacific Northwest will make use of the Internet on an average day. These two regions lead the country in daily usage of the Web.

Most users in the region log on from home.

Fully 85% of users in the Upper Midwest who connect from home on any given day will log on to the Web using a standard dial-up connection. This is about 3 percentage points higher than the national average of 82%. An additional 3% of home users in the Upper Midwest have a DSL line and about 10% use a cable modem to hook up to the Internet. Nationally, about 5% of users access the Internet via a DSL line and 10% have cable modem access.

The home and the workplace are the two locations where the vast majority of Internet users access the Web. Nationally, about 86% of users have home access, while 50% of users have made use of the Internet at their job. In the Upper Midwest, about 84% of those using the Internet have accessed it from their home while about 51% have done so from their workplace.

On an average day, 74% of those in the Upper Midwest who log on will do so from home, a rate virtually equal to the national average of 76%. About 44% of those logging on during a typical day will do so from work. Nationally, about 40% of daily users will log on from their office.

About 60% of Internet users in the Upper Midwest say they use the Internet at least once a day, and 36% will go online several times over the course of the day. Nationally, about 63% of users log on at least once a day, and about 37% do so several times. The rate of daily access in the Upper Midwest is one of the lowest in the country, well behind the Capital region (67%) and the Border States (66%). In the Upper Midwest, an additional 19% of users access the Web about three to five times a week, the largest proportion of such users in the country; 10% log on once or twice a week; and 7% log on less than that. Nationally, about 16% log on three to five times a week, 12% use the Web once or twice a week, and about 6% go online less than that.

Users in the region spend an average amount of time online.

On a typical day, about 64% of the Internet users from the Upper Midwest who are online say they spend an hour or less online. Of those, 29% will spend about thirty minutes or less in cyberspace, while 35% will be online for thirty minutes to an hour. Nationally, 62% of users spend an hour or less on the Internet each day, 26% for thirty minutes or less and 36% for thirty minutes to an hour. Meanwhile, 9% of users in the Upper Midwest spend one to two hours online, about 14% log on for two to three hours, 4% spend three to four hours online, and 7% are heavy users who spend more than fours a day online. These proportions are virtually the same in the national user population.

Upper Midwest users are unlikely to believe that the Internet has substantially improved their lives. In March 2000, we asked users several questions about the extent to which the Internet had helped them improve some aspect of their daily life – shopping, getting health information, managing their finances, making connections to family and friends, and learning new things.

One thing that is clear about users in the Upper Midwest is that they are unlikely to credit the Internet with making substantial improvements in their lives. Other than approving of how the Internet has helped their connections with their friends and family, users in the Upper Midwest do not see much of an improvement in their ability to shop, handle their finances, find health care information, pursue their hobbies, or even learn new things as compared with users in other parts of the country.

As noted earlier, users in the region are less inclined to shop online than their peers elsewhere in the country, and their opinions regarding the Internet’s effect on their ability to do so reflect this. Only 9% of users said the Internet had helped their ability to shop “a lot,” while 21% saw “some” improvement. Nationally, 15% cited a large improvement, and an additional 20% credited the Internet with some improvement. Meanwhile, 51% of users in the Upper Midwest said the Internet had no effect on their shopping ability, 7 percentage points higher than the national average and the largest proportion in any region of the country. By comparison, 43% of users in the Capital region said the Internet had helped their ability to shop either a lot or somewhat; 19% saying it had helped a lot.

Getting health care information online has become one of the Web’s most popular activities, and 36% of users nationwide say the Internet has improved their ability to get such information either a lot (16%) or somewhat (20%). Users in the Upper Midwest aren’t so sure; only 7% are willing to give the Internet a lot of credit, and an additional 18% give the Web some credit. At the same time, 52% of users in the region say the Internet hasn’t helped at all. The proportion of users who say that is 6 percentage points higher than the national average and is the largest of any region in the country. Also, the 7% who ascribe a large improvement to the Internet is by far the smallest proportion of users to say so in the entire country – the next lowest is the Pacific Northwest, with 12%.

Most Internet users do not credit the Internet with helping their ability to manage their finances. This opinion is held by 59%, and only about a quarter say the Web has helped a lot or somewhat. Users in the Upper Midwest are more vociferous – 65% say the Internet hasn’t improved their ability to manage their finances, and only 21% of users credit the Internet with a lot of or some improvement.

The ability to learn new things is one of the more popular features of the Internet, and users across the country agree wholeheartedly – 47% say the Internet has helped their ability to learn new things a lot, and an additional 32% say the Web has helped somewhat. Only 10% of users nationwide say they haven’t seen much improvement in this area. Users in the Upper Midwest agree with these sentiments – about 39% say the Internet has helped their ability to learn new things a lot, and an additional 41% credit the Internet with some improvement. Only 7% of users in the Upper Midwest cite no improvement, one of the smallest proportions of users in the country.

Users in the region are the least enthusiastic about using the Internet to improve their relationships with family and friends. There was a significant increase in the proportion of adults online in the Upper Midwest between 2000 and 2001.

As spelled out in the Pew Internet Project’s first report, “Tracking Online Life,” the Internet has been a huge boon to those wishing to foster communication with friends and family members. About 55% of users nationally say the Internet has helped them improve connections with family members, and 61% say the Web helped them improve connections with friends. In the Upper Midwest, 52% of users credit the Internet with helping their relationships with their friends, and 55% said the same thing about family members. This somewhat lukewarm endorsement of the Internet’s ability to help improve relationships with friends is the least enthusiastic response of any region in the country, and about 24% said the Internet had had no effect whatsoever. For the most part, Internet users tend to be more enthusiastic about the Internet when it comes to keeping in touch with friends rather than families, but the opposite is true among users in the Upper Midwest. Moreover, 29% of users there said the Internet had not helped their relationships with family members either.

There was a significant increase in the proportion of adults online in the Upper Midwest between 2000 and 2001.

The largest change between 2000 and 2001 among Internet users in the Upper Midwest was the strong growth in the percentage of adult users, from 49% in 2000 to 55% in 2001. Otherwise, there were no significant demographic changes.

In 2001, users in the Upper Midwest were slightly less likely to have engaged in many Internet activities, partly reflecting the surge of new users to the Web. Users there were less likely to use email, gotten news, sought financial information, done research for their job, gone online just for fun, or bought a product online. At the same time, however, there was a slight up tick in the proportion of users seeking health information on the Web.

Among usage patterns, most significant was the strong growth in the proportion of users going online from home. Accordingly, there was also a significant increase in the percentage of users accessing the Internet from home on a typical day. At the same time, there was a decrease in the percentage of users going online from work on an average day.

Some popular Web sites in the Upper Midwest

The table below lists the top five Web sites in Minneapolis-St. Paul 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 Minneapolis-St. Paul’s Favorite Web sites
  1. 13% 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.