• According to a Pew Research Center survey, 7% of U.S. adults say they do not use the internet.
  • The most common demographic variable linked to non-internet users is age; older Americans are the least likely group to go online.
  • However, other factors also affect a person's likelihood to be offline, such as educational attainment and household income.
  • The number of people offline has declined significantly: 48% of U.S. adults in the year 2000 vs. 7% today.

For many Americans, going online is an important way to connect with friends and family, shop, get news and search for information. Yet today, 7% of U.S. adults say they do not use the internet, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted Jan. 25-Feb. 8, 2021.

Internet non-adoption is linked to a number of demographic variables, but is strongly connected to age – with older Americans continuing to be one of the least likely groups to use the internet. Today, 25% of adults ages 65 and older report never going online, compared with much smaller shares of adults under the age of 65.

Educational attainment and household income are also indicators of a person’s likelihood to be offline. Some 14% of adults with a high school education or less do not use the internet, but that share falls as the level of educational attainment increases. Adults living in households earning less than $30,000 a year are far more likely than those whose annual household income is $75,000 or more to report not using the internet (14% vs. 1%).

a chart showing the percentage of adults who do not use the internet
The older demographic is less likely to use the internet.
Image: Pew Research Center

There are no statistically significant differences in non-internet use by gender, race and ethnicity, or community type.

digital, COVID-19, EDISON Alliance

EDISON Alliance: What is the Forum doing to close the digital gap?

COVID-19 has exposed digital inequities globally and exacerbated the digital divide. Most of the world lives in areas covered by a mobile broadband network, yet more than one-third (2.9 billion people) are still offline. Cost, not coverage, is the barrier to connectivity.

At The Davos Agenda 2021, the World Economic Forum launched the EDISON Alliance, the first cross-sector alliance to accelerate digital inclusion and connect critical sectors of the economy.

Through the 1 Billion Lives Challenge, the EDISON Alliance aims to improve 1 billion lives globally through affordable and accessible digital solutions across healthcare, financial services and education by 2025.

Read more about the EDISON Alliance’s work in our Impact Story.

Despite some groups having persistently lower rates of internet adoption, the vast majority of Americans are now online, as ongoing government and social service programs encourage internet adoption in underserved areas. Over time, the nation’s offline population has been shrinking, and for some groups that change has been especially dramatic. For example, 86% of adults ages 65 and older did not go online in 2000; today that figure has fallen to just a quarter.

a graph showing that the offline population has declined substantially since 2000
48% of people did not use the internet in the year 2000; now only 7% are offline.
Image: Pew Research Center

The share of offline adults ages 50 to 64 has dropped 8 percentage points since 2019, from 12% to 4%. The shares of offline Black and Hispanic adults have also fallen significantly during that period, from 15% to 9% among those who are Black and from 14% to 5% among those who are Hispanic.

Note: Here are the questions, responses and methodology used for this report. This is an update of a post originally published July 18, 2015.