August 27, 2003

Internet Use by Region in the U.S.

Part 8. Lower Midwest

Lower Midwesterners rank slightly below the national average in Internet usage.

Users in the five states in the region (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma) stand out for a number of reasons:

  • Lower Midwestern Internet users as a group are more educated than the national average.
  • The region has the highest proportion of low-household income users of any region in the country, and the highest proportion of seniors.
  • Lower Midwesterners are among the largest consumers of online news. And they are more likely than anyone else in the country to surf the Web “just for fun.”
  • Like their neighbors in the Upper Midwest (Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and South Dakota), users in the region are somewhat lukewarm in their assessment of how the Internet has improved their lives.

There is a growing gap between Internet use in the region and the rest of the nation.

In 2002, Internet penetration in the Lower Midwest continued to lag behind the national penetration rate, and the gap between Internet usage in the Lower Midwest and nationwide has steadily increased between 2000 and 2001. In 2002, 55% of adults in the Lower Midwest had been online, up from 54% in 2001 and 50% in 2000. At the same time, national Internet usage has grown from 50% of adults in 2000 to 56% in 2001 and 59% in 2002. Also of note is the virtual halt in growth in Internet penetration in the region between 2001 and 2002, which can also be observed in other parts of the country, like the Mid-Atlantic, the Industrial Midwest, and the Border States.

Almost half of Internet users in the region have been online for three or more years. The experience level of Internet users in the Lower Midwest is similar to that of the national Internet user population. About 46% of users are Web veterans with three or more years online; nationally, about 44% of users are Web veterans. An additional 33% of Web users in the Midwest have been online for about two or three years, about 16% have about a year’s worth of experience, and 5% are Internet rookies who have been logging on to the Web for about six months. In the nation, 34% of users have been online for two to three years, 15% have logged on for about a year; and 8% have been online for six months or less. These findings place the Midwest squarely in the middle relative to other regions of the country. The Midwest lags regions such as the Capital region, where 50% are Web veterans, and the Pacific Northwest (50%), but is well ahead of less-wired parts of the country such as the South (36%) and the neighboring Upper Midwest (40%).

Internet users in the Midwest are generally well educated and middle income.

About 39% have graduated from college or have other advanced degrees; nationally, about 36% of Internet users have a similar level of education. The proportion of college-educated users in the Lower Midwest is larger than the proportion of similar users in such regions as the South (28%) and the Border States (31%), but smaller than in well-educated regions of the country such as the National Capital Region (41%) and New England (41%). An additional 27% of Lower Midwest Internet users have had some college experience, another 28% have a high school diploma, and about 7% never finished high school. Nationally, about 30% of users went to college but didn’t graduate, about 29% have a high school diploma, and about 6% have less than a high school education. The 7% of users in the Lower Midwest who did not finish high school represents the largest proportion of such users in the country. It is more than twice the percentage of such users in the Upper Midwest (3%). The Border States also have a high proportion (6%) of users without high school educations.

Who's online in the Lower Midwest?

Much like their peers in the Upper Midwest, Lower Midwesterners using the Internet tend to be in the middle-income brackets, and the proportion of users there with large household incomes is the smallest in the country. The region also has one of the largest cohorts of users earning modest household incomes under $30,000. Fully 49% of users in the Midwest earn between $30,000 and $75,000, with 28% taking home between $30,000 and $50,000 a year, and another 21% earning between $50,000 and $75,000 per year. Nationally, 41% earn between $30,000 and $75,000, with 22% taking home between $30,000 and $50,000 a year and 19% earning between $50,000 and $75,000. Meanwhile, only 17% of users in the Lower Midwest earn over $75,000 a year, well under the 23% of users nationally with similar household incomes, and the smallest cohort of such users in the country. At the other end of the scale, 22% of users in the Lower Midwest earn modest incomes under $30,000 a year, one of the largest groups of such users in the country, and higher than the 19% of users nationally.18

The user population of the Lower Midwest is predominantly white, but the region also has a larger share of African-American users compared with its neighbors.

About 87% of users in the Lower Midwest are white, much higher than the national average of 78%; the only region with a larger proportion of white users is the Upper Midwest. At the same time, the region has a relatively small minority population when compared to other parts of the country. About 7% of users in the Lower Midwest are African-American, slightly lower than the national average of 8% but much higher than the average for users in neighboring regions. For instance, only 1% of users in the Upper Midwest are African-American, and only 1% of users in the Mountain states. African-Americans in the Lower Midwest are more likely to use the Internet than African-Americans generally across the country. Meanwhile, only 2% of Internet users in the Lower Midwest are Hispanic19, less than a quarter the proportion of Hispanic users in the national user population (9%). An additional 4% of users in the region come from other races and ethnicities, just under the national average of 5%.

More women than men in the region are online.

Unlike almost every other region in the country, the Lower Midwest has a higher proportion of female users than male users. Nationally, the Internet population is split 50-50; in the Lower Midwest, however, 52% of users are women and 48% are men. Only the Mid-Atlantic region (54%) and the Mountain States (53%) have larger proportions of women users.

The region’s Internet users mirror national patterns for age, except for the large proportion of seniors.

The Lower Midwest Internet population is rather evenly distributed across all the age groups, and is quite similar in age breakdown to the national Internet population. In the region, about 19% of users are young adults between 18 and 24, 20% are aged between 25 and 34, about 23% are between 35 and 44. An additional 23% are between 45 and 54, and about 15% of users are aged 55 and older. Nationally, about 17% of users are between 18 and 24, and 23% are between 25 and 34. About 26% are between 35 and 44, an additional 20% are between 45 and 54, and about 14% are over the age of 55. Of note is that 5% of users in the Lower Midwest are seniors aged 65 and older, one of the largest proportions of seniors online in the country (nationally, about 4% of those 65 and older are logging onto the Web). The proportion of senior users in the Midwest is about twice that in Mid-Atlantic region, the Capital Region, and the South (all 3%).

In the Lower Midwest, about 65% of Internet users are employed full time, a slightly larger proportion than in the national Internet population, where about 64% have full-time jobs. Meanwhile, 16% of the region’s users are employed part time – again, slightly higher than the national average, which is 14%.

Lower Midwesterners do have some clear likes and dislikes compared with users elsewhere.

For the most part, Lower Midwesterners who log on to the Internet enjoy the same online activities such as email or looking for health information as their peers in other parts of the country. However, gathering news online is a favorite activity in the Lower Midwest, something that 65% of Web users have done at one time or another. Nationally, about 60% of users have done this, and the proportion of Lower Midwestern Internet news consumers is one of the largest in the country. Other regions with high levels of online news usage are the Mid-Atlantic (61%), the National Capital region (62%), the Border States (64%) and the South (63%). Interestingly, looking for news online in the Lower Midwest ranks much higher than in the neighboring Upper Midwest, where only 53% of Internet users have done this.

Going online just for fun is also very popular in the Lower Midwest – some 70% of users there have logged on just to pass the time, compared with 61% of users nationally. The Lower Midwest leads all regions of the country in this. By comparison, only about half (49%) of users in the Pacific Northwest claim to have gone online just for fun, and only about 53% of users in the Mountain states. Only about 55% of users in the neighboring Upper Midwest have surfed the Internet for no particular reason.

One online activity that users in the Lower Midwest are wary of is online shopping. Only about 37% of users there have bought something online, the smallest proportion of any region in the country. Nationally, about 45% of Internet users have bought something through a Web site. Users in the Upper Midwest (37%) are equally as wary of online shopping as Lower Midwesterners are; in contrast, 55% of users in New England have bought something through the Internet.

Lower Midwesterners are also relatively wary about seeking financial information via the Internet. Only 31% of users there have done so, in contrast to the 38% of users who have done so nationally. Once again, the Lower Midwest has one of the lowest rates of Internet use for this purpose of any region in the country.

As for other popular activities on the Internet, Lower Midwestern users enjoy them at much the same rates as their peers. Email is by far the Web’s most popular online activity, and 89% of users in the region use it. Meanwhile, about 59% have sought health information online, 42% have done online research for their job, 77% have sought information about their hobbies on the Internet, and about 78% have turned to the Web to answer a question. Nationally, about 88% of users have sent or received email, 56% have sought health information, 41% have done online job research, 78% have sought information about a hobby, and 75% have turned to the Internet to answer a question.

Users in the region are slightly more likely to log on during an average day. There is high use of high-speed cable modems at home, but Lower Midwesterners are the least likely to log on from home.

On a typical day, about 58% of Internet users in the Lower Midwest will log on to the Web. This rate is slightly higher than the national average of 57%. Compared with other regions, this rate of daily access is somewhat high and approaches rates in such highly wired regions as the National Capital region (59%) and New England (60%). The region with the highest daily access is the Pacific Northwest, where 63% of users log on to the Web on a typical day. The lowest is the South (51%).

There is high use of high-speed cable modems at home.

In the Lower Midwest, a surprisingly large proportion of home-based Internet users (12%) access the Internet via high-speed cable modems. This puts the region second behind New England (16%) and tied with the Mid-Atlantic (12%) in this category; nationally, about 10% of users have access to cable modems. About 80% of home Internet users in the Midwest log on to the Net via a standard dial-up connection, and 4% have access to a DSL line. Nationally, about 82% of users use a dial-up connection, and about 5% use a DSL connection.

But Lower Midwesterners are the least likely to log on from home.

When going online, users generally do so from either the home or the workplace. In the Lower Midwest, about 82% of users have home access, while 51% have gone online from work. The rate of home access is well below the national average of 86% and gives the Lower Midwest the lowest rate of home access of any region in the country. To illustrate how far behind the region is in home access to the Internet, the region with the next lowest rate of home access is the South, with 83%. However, the proportion of Internet users in the Lower Midwest using the Internet while at work is on par with the national average of 50%.

On an average day, 73% of those Lower Midwestern Internet users who go online will access the Web from home; nationally, about 76% of users will do so. This daily rate of home access, like the overall home access rate mentioned above, places the region near the bottom. The only region with a lower rate of daily home access is the National Capitol region, where 71% of users will log on from the home. By comparison, 84% of home users in the Pacific Northwest will use the Internet from home on a typical day. About 39% of Lower Midwesterners logging on during a typical day will access the Internet at work, just under the national average of 40%.

About 62% of Lower Midwestern Internet users say they log on to the Web at least once a day, and 36% use the Internet several times a day. These proportions are just about the same as for the national Internet population. The National Capital region has the highest daily usage; 67% of users there report logging on at least once a week, and 45% log on several times a day. In the region with the lowest rate of daily usage, the South, about 60% of users log on at least once a day, and 34% go online more than once. At the same time, 17% of users in the Lower Midwest use the Internet three to five times a week, about 12% go online once or twice a week, and 6% log on less than once a week.

On an average day, about 61% of Americans who are using the Internet will spend an hour or less online – 26% will log on for thirty minutes or less, while 36% will stay for thirty minutes to an hour. In the Lower Midwest, 63% of users will use the Internet for an hour or less; 27% will spend thirty minutes or less, while 34% will spend thirty minutes to an hour online. Meanwhile, 7% of Lower Midwestern users will spend about an hour to two hours online on an average day, about 14% will spend two to three hours online, 7% are online for three to fours a day, and about 10% are heavy Web users who spend more than four hours a day online. These proportions are virtually the same as for the national user population.

Lower Midwesterners are lukewarm about the impact of the Internet on their lives. In March 2000, users were asked 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, connecting with family and friends, and learning new things.

Like their neighbors in the Upper Midwest, Lower Midwesterners are relatively muted in their appraisal of the Internet’s effect on their day-to-day lives. While they share the common enthusiasm for the Internet’s ability to improve their communication with friends and family, users in the Lower Midwest are ambivalent about how it has helped them with other activities. However, users in the region are pretty enthusiastic about the Internet’s ability to help them to learn new things.

About 55% of users nationwide say the Internet has had an impact on their relationships with members of their family, and 61% say the Web has had a positive impact on their relationships with friends (“a lot” or “some”). As for Lower Midwesterners, about 58% say that the Internet has had an impact on their relationships with family members, while 60% say the same thing about their friends. At the same time, a quarter of Lower Midwestern users say the Internet has had no effect on their relationships with their family, and 20% say the same thing about relationships with friends. However, both these proportions are smaller than for the national user population, 29% of whom saw no effect with family and 22% of whom saw none with friends.

The Internet is a rich resource for information, and nationally, 79% of users agree that it has had an impact on their ability to learn new things. Only 10% say the Internet has not affected their ability in any way. Users in the Lower Midwest are just as enthusiastic about the ability of the Internet to help them learn new things – 78% say it has had an impact, and only 12% see no impact whatsoever. In fact, 49% say the Internet has had a large impact on their ability to learn new things, one of the largest groups of any region in the country. Only the Southeast (51%), the National Capital region (52%) and the Border States (57%) were more enthusiastic.

When it comes to shopping, however, users in the Lower Midwest are not very enthusiastic about the Internet’s ability to help them. Only 7% of users there credit the Internet with having a big impact, and an additional 26% credit the Internet with having some impact. Fully 48% of users in the region say the Internet has done nothing to improve their ability to shop; only the Upper Midwest (51%) is more skeptical. Nationally, 34% of users credit the Internet with having some impact on their shopping (15% saw a large impact), while 44% said the Internet had done nothing for their shopping ability.

Getting health information online is one of the Web’s more popular activities, as well as one of its most important. Fully 36% of users nationwide say the Internet has had an impact on their ability to get health care information, and 16% give the Web a lot of credit. While 34% of users in the Lower Midwest say the Internet has helped them search for health information, 52% say the Internet has had no effect whatsoever. The Upper Midwest (52%) is equally dismissive of the Internet’s ability to help with getting heath information, and the two regions lead the country in this skepticism.

Nationwide, the Internet gets little credit for helping people manage their finances; 59% of users feel it has had no impact whatsoever. Only 27% feel it has made any impact in this area, and just 12% credit the Internet with a large impact. In the Lower Midwest, 62% of Internet users feel the Internet has done nothing to help them manage their finances, and only 21% note any impact (11% credit the Internet with helping them a lot).

There was significant growth in the proportion of adults using the Internet in the region between 2000 and 2001.

As mentioned, the most significant change was the solid growth in the percentage of adults in the Lower Midwest using the Internet, from just under 50% in 2000 to 54% in 2001. Demographically, there were slight increases in the proportion of African-Americans in the Lower Midwestern Internet user population and in the proportion of users aged 45 and 54. There was also a solid increase in the proportion of college-educated users.

Between 2000 and 2001, some online activities attracted more Lower Midwesterners and some activities were less favored. They were more likely to have sought news online, to have looked for health information, and to have turned to the Internet to answer a question in 2001 than they were in 2000. At the same time, they became less likely to use email, do job research on the Internet, or buy a product online. And they were a lot less likely to have sought financial information on the Web.

Usage patterns in the Lower Midwest remained stable between 2000 and 2001. There were solid increases in the percentages of users logging on to the Net from both the home and from the workplace, with a slightly larger increase at home. However, there was a slight decrease in the proportion of home users who logged on from home on an average day.

Some popular Web sites in the Lower Midwest

The table below lists the top five Web sites in St. Louis 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 St. Louis’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.