Taubman Center for Public Policy

Rhode Island Computer Ownership Doubled between 1994 and 2000, but Still Falls Behind New England and the Country

Researchers at Brown University studied patterns of computer and Internet usage by examining Census numbers for state, region, and nation. Among the conclusions: Rhode Island lags the region and country in computer usage, and there are wide variations in ownership by income, education, sex, age, and race.

Providence, R.I. -- Researchers at Brown University conducting a detailed study of Census data have found that computer ownership within Rhode Island has doubled since 1994, but still falls behind the rest of the country.

Darrell M. West, director of Brown's Taubman Center for Public Policy, and Jack Combs, the Center's research administrator, examined U.S. Bureau of the Census figures on computer ownership and usage from 1994 to 2000.

Forty-eight percent of Rhode Islanders owned computers in 2000, compared to 56 percent of New Englanders and 51 percent of Americans nationally. The state's number is more than double the 22 percent of Rhode Island residents who said in 1994 they owned a computer. That year, 27 percent of New Englanders owned computers and 24 percent of Americans did.

Of those within the state who owned computers, 72 percent owned one computer, 21 percent had two computers, and 7 percent owned three or more computers. One-quarter of the computers in Rhode Island households are more than three years old.

There are major gaps in computer ownership based on income, education, sex, age, and race. For example, whereas 90 percent of state residents earning $75,000 or more own computers, 12 percent of those making under $10,000 do. Eighty percent of college graduates own a computer, compared to 38 percent of high school graduates. Fifty-two percent of men own a computer while only 44 percent of women do.

Forty-nine percent of whites have a computer, compared to 34 percent of African-Americans. There are big differences by age. Thirty-two percent of those aged 18 to 24 own a computer, compared to 63 percent of those 25 to 34, 68 percent of those 35 to 44, and 61 percent of those aged 45 to 54. Only 27 percent of individuals 55 or older own a computer.

State residents are more likely to use the Internet at home than outside the home. Seventy-six percent indicated they used the Internet from a home computer while 21 percent said they used the Internet outside their home.

When asked what their favorite uses of the Internet at home were, Rhode Islanders cited email (64 percent), followed by searching for information on government, business, health, or education (45 percent), checking for news, weather, or sports (34 percent), taking educational courses or conducting school research (32 percent), shopping or paying bills (27 percent), job-related tasks (22 percent), searching for jobs (10 percent), using it for games, entertainment, or fun (5 percent), and making phone calls (2 percent).

For more information on this study, contact Darrell M. West at (401) 863-1163.