Pew releases report on gadget ownership

Faith Merino · October 14, 2010 · Short URL:

The report outlines trends and demographics in technology use

A new study released today by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project looks at technology usage in America and comes back with some interesting findings—most notably that technology usage is shifting further and further away from the desktop and towards “’anywhere, anytime’ access to news, information, friends, and entertainment.”

The study looks at a range of different gadgets, including laptops, cell phones, mp3 players, game consoles, tablets, and e-readers, as well as who is using them.  Among the study’s findings is an increase in the number of people who own laptops—52%, compared to 30% in April 2006.  Corresponding with the rising number of people who own laptops is a decline in the number of people who own desktop PCs, falling to 59% from 68% in 2006.  These days, a full 76% of all adults own some kind of computer, whether that is a desktop, laptop, or both. 

Unsurprisingly, the youngest demographic takes the lead in every category (in e-readers and tablets, 18-29-year-olds tie with 30-49-year-olds).  While 85% of all Americans own cell phones, fully 96% of 18-29-year-olds own a cell phone.  The same holds true for computer ownership: 88% of respondents aged 18-29 own a computer, compared to 83% of respondents between the ages of 30 and 49.

And as in other studies of technology and Web use, income and education level correspond directly to technology usage.  Respondents with a college education or higher are more likely to own computers, mp3 players, e-readers, and tablets, while those with “some college” led the categories of cell phone and game console ownership.  Parents are also more likely than non-parents to own game consoles.

In the racial breakdown, white respondents are more likely than other race categories to own a computer, cell phone, mp3 player, and e-reader, while Hispanic respondents are more likely than other groups to own game consoles and tablets.  Black respondents were more likely than other groups to own e-readers.

Because tablets and e-readers are still relatively new on the technology scene, their demographics reflect the typical early adopter demographics: wealthy and highly educated.

Interestingly, in every category except for e-readers, men lead women in technology usage—even if by only one percentage point.  In computer ownership, men lead women 78% to 75% respectively.  Additionally, 88% of men own cell phones compared to 82% of women.  In mp3 player ownership, men lead women by one percentage point—47% compared to 46%.  46% of male respondents own game consoles, compared to 40% of female respondents, and 5% of men own tablets compared to 3% of women.  The only category in which women led men was in e-readers: 5% of women own e-readers, compared to 4% of men.

Having minored in Gender Studies in college, this caught my eye—as it does every time I read a Pew study on Internet and technology use.  I asked the author, Aaron Smith, why this is the case (as it has to be something more than “men like technology more than women”—you can’t hear me, but I’m saying that in a mock male voice).

“The female cohort does contain a higher concentration of seniors (since women tend to live longer than men), and we’ve established pretty conclusively that age is perhaps the primary factor correlated with technology use,” said Smith, via email. “They’re also less likely than men to be employed full-time and more likely to be either employed part-time or not employed for pay. At any rate, there are still some gender differences in technology use but that effect is much less pronounced than it was, say, 10 years ago when we first started conducting research in this area.”

I’ll accept that. 


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