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Give PCs a Chance: Personal Computer Ownership and the Digital Divide in the United States and Great Britain


  • John Schmitt
  • Jonathan Wadsworth


This paper summarizes inequalities in PC ownership using data from the US Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE) and the British General Household Survey (GHS) for the period 1984-98. Between 1988 and 1994, British households were more likely than US households to own a personal computer (PC). After 1994, however, US PC ownership rates accelerated rapidly, pushing the United States ahead of Britain. Differences in computer ownership rates are however much larger within the two countries, measured by income, education, age, family status, and race. Both the United States and Britain show large and growing inequality in PC ownership over the 1980s and 1990s. Analysis of ownership patterns of four other household consumer durables suggests that there may be significant limitations to relying solely on the market to eradicate PC inequality quickly.

Suggested Citation

  • John Schmitt & Jonathan Wadsworth, 2002. "Give PCs a Chance: Personal Computer Ownership and the Digital Divide in the United States and Great Britain," CEP Discussion Papers dp0526, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp0526

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    11. Editors : & David Marsden & Hugh Stephenson, 2001. "Labour Law and Social Insurance in the New Economy: A Debate on the Supiot Report," CEP Discussion Papers dp0500, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
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    Cited by:

    1. Robin Winkler, 2013. "Did Nazis save more? Household saving and ideology in pre-war National Socialist Germany," Economics Series Working Papers 119, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    2. Schmitt, John & Wadsworth, Jonathan, 2006. "Is there an impact of household computer ownership on children's educational attainment in Britain?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 25(6), pages 659-673, December.
    3. Francesco Venturini, 2005. "How Much Does IT Consumption Matter for Growth? Evidence from National Accounts," Rivista di Politica Economica, SIPI Spa, vol. 95(1), pages 57-110, January-F.

    More about this item


    Inequality; Personal Computers;

    JEL classification:

    • J6 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers


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