New England and California have the highest percentage of online shoppers while Internet users in much of the Midwest are the least likely to have bought online, according to a recent report on 12 continental U.S. regions by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.
About 55 percent of Internet users in New England and 53 percent in California have bought something online, while 37 percent of Internet users in two of the study's three subdivisions for the Midwest have done so, the Washington-based nonprofit found. The national average is 45 percent, Pew said.
Though one might be tempted to think that New England and California naturally have more online shoppers because they are high-tech havens with above-average Internet use, this is apparently not necessarily the case.
The three Midwest regions vary in Internet penetration, from the U.S. average of 59 percent for the Upper Midwest, or Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin; to 55 percent for the Lower Midwest, or Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma; and 56 percent for the Industrial Midwest, or Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.
The Industrial Midwest has a higher percentage of users who have purchased something online, at 42 percent.
Not surprisingly, the highest Internet penetration is in Microsoft's back yard, the Pacific Northwest, or Washington and Oregon. But while 68 percent of adults have Internet access in this region, a lower-than-average 41 percent of its users have bought something online, the study said.
The Pacific Northwest has the highest percentage of older users, with 19 percent of them being 55 or older, according to Pew.
Still, New England and California have the second- and third-highest percentage of adults with Internet access — 66 percent and 65 percent, respectively — and the wealthiest, most educated Internet users in the nation, the study said.
Thirty-three percent of Internet users in New England, or Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Rhode Island, have household incomes of $75,000 yearly, compared with 23 percent of users nationwide, according to the 105-page report.
The Mid-Atlantic region, or Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, has the third-highest percentage of online shoppers at 48 percent. Fifty-eight percent of adults in this region have Internet access.
Meanwhile, low-income households in New England are more likely to be wired than those elsewhere in the United States. Forty-three percent of low-income New Englanders, defined as those with household incomes of $30,000 or less, are online compared with a U.S. average of 38 percent.
Also, New England has a higher percentage of male users, 55 percent, compared with 50 percent nationally.
Twenty-nine percent of Internet users in California have household incomes of $75,000 or more, according to Pew.
While the vast majority of Internet users have dial-up connections in their homes, California leads the nation in home broadband penetration, the study found. Ten percent of Californians use DSL at home compared with 5 percent nationwide. But 9 percent of California Internet users connect with cable modems at home versus 10 percent nationwide. Seventy-seven percent of California's Internet users have dial-up connections at home compared with 82 percent in the U.S. overall.
Another highly wired, high-earner area is Washington, DC; Maryland; and Virginia, or the so-called National Capital region, according to Pew.
At the end of 2002, 65 percent of adults in the National Capital region had used the Internet and 31 percent of those users had household incomes of $75,000 or more, the report said. That region also has the highest percentage of Internet users who are black: 17 percent, versus 8 percent nationwide.
By comparison, just 1 percent of Internet users in New England are black, according to the study.
Also, 61 percent of Hispanics in the capital region are online compared with 54 percent nationwide. However, California has the highest percentage of minority Internet users at 38 percent, and 21 percent of all California's Internet users are Hispanic.
Meanwhile, the lowest Internet penetration is in the South, according to the study. Just 48 percent of adults in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and West Virginia had Internet access at the end of 2002, Pew said.
The relative non-use of the Internet in the South cuts across every demographic, according to the report.
“While some gaps are more pronounced than others, it can be said that Southerners of every stripe are less likely to be online than their peers,” the report said. Not surprisingly, the South has correspondingly lower levels of education and household income.
Eighteen percent of Internet users in the South have household incomes of $75,000 yearly, compared with 23 percent nationally. And about 28 percent of Internet users in the South have college degrees, versus 36 percent nationally, the study said.
About 14 percent of Southern Internet users are black, which ranks that region third compared with 17 percent in the capital region and 15 percent in the Southeast.
Also, just 42 percent of women in the South are online, compared with 54 percent of women nationally. The highest percentage of wired women is in the Mid-Atlantic region at 54 percent.
Southerners are also the least likely to log on daily, according to the study, with 51 percent doing so in a typical day versus 57 percent nationally and, at the high end, 63 percent in the Pacific Northwest and 60 percent in New England.
One standout area in the South, however, is the percentage of users who have gone online to seek healthcare information: 61 percent, compared with 56 percent nationally.
Right down the middle for Internet use is the Industrial Midwest (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio). About 25 percent of users in this region have household incomes of $75,000 or higher, and 38 percent of them have college diplomas, the study said.
About 87 percent of this region's users have sent or received e-mail, compared with 88 percent nationally; 58 percent have gotten news online, versus 59 percent nationally; 38 percent have sought financial information online compared with 38 percent nationally; and 58 percent have sought health information online versus 56 percent nationally;