The digital divide

Technological haves and have-nots

Seventy percent of the U.S. adult population in 2007 was online and 80 percent of them say they have searched for health information. But data from two studies—the Pew Internet & American Life Project in 2008 and HINTS, a 2005 NIH research project focused on use of the Internet for cancer information—paint a radically different story of Internet health information access among the haves and have-nots.

  • Twenty-five percent of Americans whose household incomes are $20,000 a year or less had broadband at home in 2008—down from 28 percent in 2007.
  • Forty-three percent of African Americans reported having home broadband, compared with 57 percent of whites and 56 percent of English-speaking Hispanics.
  • Of those whose income was below the federal poverty level (which was $19,349.99 for a family of four in 2005 when the study was completed), only about 30 percent were using the Internet for health information. By contrast, more than 70 percent of those whose  household income was three times the poverty level or higher (income over $58,050 for a family of four) were going to the Internet for health information.
  • While 30 percent of high school graduates use the Internet for health information, that figure rises to 75 percent among those with at least a bachelor’s degree.
  • The most popular health website on the Internet,, is written at the 13th-grade level. is written at grade level 12. The National Institutes of Health’s website is written at grade level 9.
  • Television remains the great health care information equalizer. Irrespective of income, about 75 percent of all individuals say they watch health news on TV.