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From the 'Digital Divide' to 'Digital Inequality': Studying Internet Use as Penetration Increases

Author

Listed:
  • Paul DiMaggio

    (Princeton University)

  • Eszter Hargittai

    (Princeton University)

Abstract

The authors of this paper contend that as Internet penetration increases, students of inequality of access to the new information technologies should shift their attention from the "digital divide" - inequality between "haves" and "have-nots" differentiated by dichotomous measures of access to or use of the new technologies - to digital inequality, by which we refer not just to differences in access, but also to inequality among persons with formal access to the Internet. After reviewing data on Internet penetration, the paper describes five dimensions of digital inequality - in equipment, autonomy of use, skill, social support, and the purposes for which the technology is employed - that deserve additional attention. In each case, hypotheses are developed to guide research, with the goal of developing a testable model of the relationship between individual characteristics, dimensions of inequality, and positive outcomes of technology use. Finally, because the rapidity of organizational as well as technical change means that it is difficult to presume that current patterns of inequality will persist into the future, the authors call on students of digital inequality to study institutional issues in order to understand patterns of inequality as evolving consequences of interactions among firms' strategic choices, consumers' responses, and government policies.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul DiMaggio & Eszter Hargittai, 2001. "From the 'Digital Divide' to 'Digital Inequality': Studying Internet Use as Penetration Increases," Working Papers 47, Princeton University, School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies..
  • Handle: RePEc:pri:cpanda:15
    as

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    File URL: https://culturalpolicy.princeton.edu/sites/culturalpolicy/files/wp15_dimaggio_hargittai.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Alan B. Krueger, 1993. "How Computers Have Changed the Wage Structure: Evidence from Microdata, 1984–1989," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 108(1), pages 33-60.
    2. Hargittai, Eszter, 1999. "Weaving the Western Web: explaining differences in Internet connectivity among OECD countries," Telecommunications Policy, Elsevier, vol. 23(10-11), pages 701-718, November.
    3. Eszter Hargittai, 2000. "Open Portals or Closed Gates? Channeling Content on the World Wide Web," Working Papers 52, Princeton University, School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies..
    4. Eszter Hargittai, 2000. "Open Portals or Closed Gates? Channeling Content on the World Wide Web," Working Papers 52, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies..
    5. Oecd, 1997. "Webcasting and Convergence: Policy Implications," OECD Digital Economy Papers 31, OECD Publishing.
    6. repec:pri:cpanda:wp10%20-%20hargittai is not listed on IDEAS
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Digital divide; Internet; World Wide Web; computer use; social inequality;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • Z11 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economics of the Arts and Literature
    • L86 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Information and Internet Services; Computer Software

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