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Research Note---Social Interactions and the “Digital Divide”: Explaining Variations in Internet Use

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  • Ritu Agarwal

    () (Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742)

  • Animesh Animesh

    () (Desautels Faculty of Management, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec H3A 1G5, Canada)

  • Kislaya Prasad

    () (Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742)

Abstract

Given the increasingly important role of the Internet in education, healthcare, and other essential services, it is important that we develop an understanding of the “digital divide.” Despite the widespread diffusion of the Web and related technologies, pockets remain where the Internet is used sparingly, if at all. There are large geographic variations, as well as variations across ethnic and racial lines. Prior research suggests that individual, household, and regional differences are responsible for this disparity. We argue for an alternative explanation: Individual choice is subject to social influence (“peer effects”) that emanates from geographic proximity; this influence is the cause of the excess variation. We test this assertion with empirical analysis of a data set compiled from a number of sources. We find, first, that widespread Internet use among people who live in proximity has a direct effect on an individual's propensity to go online. Using data on residential segregation, we test the proposition that the Internet usage patterns of people who live in more ethnically isolated regions will more closely resemble usage patterns of their ethnic group. Finally, we examine the moderating impact of housing density and directly measured social interactions on the relationship between Internet use and peer effects. Results are consistent across analyses and provide strong evidence of peer effects, suggesting that individual Internet use is influenced by local patterns of usage. Implications for public policy and the diffusion of the Internet are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Ritu Agarwal & Animesh Animesh & Kislaya Prasad, 2009. "Research Note---Social Interactions and the “Digital Divide”: Explaining Variations in Internet Use," Information Systems Research, INFORMS, vol. 20(2), pages 277-294, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:orisre:v:20:y:2009:i:2:p:277-294
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/isre.1080.0194
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:respol:v:47:y:2018:i:6:p:1125-1132 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Sriram Thirumalai & Kingshuk K. Sinha, 2013. "To Personalize or Not to Personalize Online Purchase Interactions: Implications of Self-Selection by Retailers," Information Systems Research, INFORMS, vol. 24(3), pages 683-708, September.
    3. Pradeep Racherla & Munir Mandviwalla, 2013. "Moving from Access to Use of the Information Infrastructure: A Multilevel Sociotechnical Framework," Information Systems Research, INFORMS, vol. 24(3), pages 709-730, September.
    4. Claussen, Jörg & Kretschmer, Tobias & Mayrhofer, Philip, 2010. "Incentives for Quality over Time – The Case of Facebook Applications," Discussion Papers in Business Administration 12500, University of Munich, Munich School of Management.
    5. repec:spr:manrev:v:68:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s11301-017-0133-3 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. repec:wfo:wstudy:61633 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Kai-Lung Hui & I. P. L. Png, 2015. "Research Note—Migration of Service to the Internet: Evidence from a Federal Natural Experiment," Information Systems Research, INFORMS, vol. 26(3), pages 606-618, September.
    8. Fulvio Castellacci & Henrik Schwabe, 2018. "Internet Use and the U-shaped relationship between Age and Well-being," Working Papers on Innovation Studies 20180215, Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture, University of Oslo.

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