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Census Update Survey 2003

Montgomery County Department of Park & Planning Research & Technology Center June 2004

The digital gap is closing in

Montgomery County.
by Gary Goodwin, Research Planner/Web Coordinator

Exhibit 1 With the advent of home computing and the prices, greater computing power, sales of
Home computer World Wide Web, there has been concern that increasingly entertaining computer games, and
ownership a "digital gap" would separate those who have use of computers in primary, middle and high
approaches 100% access to this new technology from those left school education, led most households to add
Percent of Montgomery without it. In the 1990s, this gap looked to be at least one computer. Growth of the Internet
County population with
access to computers at
considerable and possibly persistent. But new also has been compelling and almost a neces-
home, 1997 and 2003 demographic and economic data collected in sity for a person looking for fast and conve-
92% the spring of 2003 shows a small and quickly nient access to a wide range of information,
75% narrowing gap in Montgomery County. and E-mail has reshaped personal and busi-
ness communication.
Census Update Survey 2003
By 2003, 92 percent of the County's 914,900
Since 1974, the M-NCPPC Research Center residents had access to at least one computer
has conducted a survey of households ap- at home. This is 17 percentage points higher
proximately every three years preceding a than the 75 percent of the population that had
'97 '03
U.S. decennial census and four years follow- personal computers in 1997.
ing it. In 2003, surveys were mailed to a
When comparing Montgomery County house-
sample of Montgomery County households.
holds to the nation's households, we see
These data were representative of demo-
Montgomery County computer access running
graphic and economic trends found in each

well ahead of the national access level (Ex-


area of the County and the County as a


RESOURCES hibit 2). In 2003, the


ACTION whole. Exhibit 2
Technology County exceeded
Three key questions were asked of house- estimated U.S. County
Research & Technology households lead
holds relevant to exploring the presence and computer ownership US in computers
Montgomery County
extent of a County digital gap: How many by 19 percentage Percent of US and
Department of Park & personal computers are used in your resi- points. Eighty-seven Montgomery County
Planning dence? Does your residence have an Internet percent of the households with
computers, 2003
Maryland-National Capital connection? If yes, do you use dial-up or high- County's 338,445
Park & Planning Commission
speed (cable, DSL, or satellite) access? The households owned
8787 Georgia Avenue
first two questions were also asked six years computers to the 87%
Silver Spring, MD 20910 68%
301.495.4700 earlier when we conducted the 1997 Census nation's 68 percent. Update Survey and the results are included
here to show how computer and Internet Computer Access
access has changed over the 1997 to 2003 Gap
period. US MC
In 1997, access to
Unless otherwise noted, the
computers varied U.S. Computer data
source of all data is: Census Access to Computers estimated from 2000 & 2001
Update Survey ; M-NCPPC greatly by race and data, U.S. Dept. of
Research & Technology
Center; 1987, 1994, 1997, Between 1997 and 2003, home computing Hispanic origin Commerce, NTIA.
and 2003. reached new levels of popularity. Falling (Exhibit 3). Asian
Census Update Survey 2003

Exhibit 3 residents had the greatest access Exhibit 5 Exhibit 6

Computer ownership and the Black population had the Home internet County leads US
converges and gap diminishes least. By 2003, the differences access jumps 38 in household
Percent of Montgomery County between all groups had greatly percentage points internet access
population with access to computers at
home, 1997 and 2003
diminished. Black, Hispanic, and Percent of Montgomery Percent of United States
County population with and Montgomery County
White population access con- access to internet at households with access to
100% verged around a single point, home, 1997 and 2003 internet at home, 2003
All: 92%
near the access level enjoyed by
Asian 100% 86% 100% 81%
the County as a whole. Ninety-
White Non-Hispanic 61%
Hispanic two percent of the County's
Black population had access to a 48%
computer at home when the
'97 '03 survey was conducted last year.
Black residents saw the greatest 0% 0%
'97 '03 US MC
growth in computer access, 27.9 percentage
U.S. Computer data estimated from 2000 & 2001 data, U.S.
points (Table 1). Hispanics followed with a Dept. of Commerce, NTIA.
growth of 20.9 percentage points. In the same
period, Asian and White access grew at a access exceeded national access by 20
more modest level, 13.9 and 15.1, respec- percentage points (Exhibit 6).
Table 1 Persons 19 and under enjoy an extremely high
Computer Access by Major Population Group level of access to computers at home; 97
percent of all children in the County have
Percentage of each major Group 1997 2003 Growth computer access at home. Exhibit 7 shows
of Montgomery County
population group that has Asian 82.8 96.7 13.9 this age group split into three sub-segments:
access to a computer at under 10, 10 to 14, and 15 to 19 years old. A
home, 1997 and 2003 Black 62.6 90.5 27.9 clear trend can be seen. As children get older,
Hispanic 70.2 91.1 20.9 access increases. By high school age, nearly
98 percent have access.
White, Non-Hispanic 76.7 91.8 15.1
Internet access is also seen at high levels in
the 19 and under age group where nearly 91
As expected, computer ownership follows percent have access to the Internet at home in
Exhibit 4
household income. As income increases, the
Home computer
ownership falls greater is the share of households with at least Exhibit 7 Exhibit 8

below 50% at one computer. When median incomes fall to Computer access Few Children
incomes < $15K under $15,000, less than 50 percent of house- for children Without Internet
holds in that income range have computers at approaches 100% Access at Home
Percent of Montgomery
County households by home (Exhibit 4). Percent of Montgomery Percent of Montgomery
income group with County children with County children with
computers, 2003 access to computer at internet access at home,
Internet Access home, 2003 2003
In the past six years, Internet access jumped 96% 97% 98% 90% 89%94%
100% 100%
by 38 percentage points. By 2003, 86 percent
of all residents had access in their homes via
dial-up or high-speed technologies (Exhibit 5).
As was the case with computer ownership,
0% Montgomery County also widely exceeds the
Under $15K

0% 0%
Under 10

Under 10

nation in Internet access. When looking at

household data, we can see that the County's
The digital gap is closing in Montgomery County.

2003. A slightly different trend is revealed in Internet Access Gap Exhibit 9

the data (Exhibit 8). A small drop-off in access Internet access decreases
Between 1997 and 2003, each with age
can be seen between the under-10 age group
major population group saw
and the 10 to 14 children. Only a percentage Percent of Montgomery County adults
growth in Internet access (Exhibit with internet access at home, 2003
point separates these two groups. The 15 to
11). However, convergence has
19 years old group had the greatest level of 100%
not been seen across all these
access (93.7 percent).
groups. Asian and White groups
As is expected, Internet access by adults is have the highest level of access
high and remains so across many age group- and Black and Hispanic popula-
ings (Exhibit 9). Access reaches a peak as tions share the lowest.
early as the 40 - 44 age group (90 percent




As was the case with computer
with access) and remains pretty much un-
access, Black residents saw the
changed until 54. Starting at age 55, access
greatest growth in Internet access
falls off, reaching its lowest point in the 75+
age grouping (52.2
percent with access). Table 2 Exhibit10
Internet Access by Major Population Group County
Broadband broadband usage
Internet Access Percentage of each major Group 1997 2003 Growth exceeds U.S.
of Montgomery County
population group that has Asian 52.9 90.6 37.7 Percent of households
In addition to the internet access at home, with broadband internet
changing capabilities of 1997 and 2003 Black 35.8 80.2 44.4 access (cable, DSL,
satellite), 2003
home computers and
Hispanic 44.6 79.7 35.1
the expanding number 100%
of persons accessing White, Non-Hispanic 50.1 87.9 37.8
the Internet since 1997,
the means of accessing the Internet have also 37%
between 1997 and 2003, increasing by slightly
changed. In 1997, the majority of Internet more than 44 percentage points. The other 18%
users used a modem to dial-up to an Internet population groups had nearly the same amount
service provider to gain access. By 2003, the 0%
of growth: Asians and non-Hispanics saw a US MC
number of access choices had increased with 37.8 and 37.7 percentage point increase, U.S. broadband usage: RHK,
the addition of cable, DSL (uses dedicated respectively, with non-Hispanic Whites Inc. cited in BusinessWeek
Online, Sept. 9, 2003
phone lines), and satellite technology. High- following closely behind at 35.1 percentage
speed access helps the user unlock more points.
advanced capabilities of the Internet, such as
There are some moderate dispari- Exhibit 11
audio and video streaming and telecommuting
ties in levels of high-speed access Home internet access jumps;
options. Five years ago, communities were some disparity by group
between major population groups.
measured how "wired" they were by market-
When data is cast in terms of Percent of Montgomery County
ers and those making technology policies. The population with internet access at
population (not to be confused with
presumption is that the more wired, the more home by group, 1997 and 2003
household data shown in Exhibit
technologically savvy and leading edge are the
10), we see that 34 percent of the 100%
residents. Now, the new measure is how All: 86%
total population has access to the
"broadband wired" we are.
Internet via high-speed means
The 2003 Census Update Survey data at the (Exhibit 12). Lagging the level of Asian
White Non-Hispanic
household level shows we are more broad- access enjoyed as a County as a Hispanic
band wired than the nation as a whole. The whole, are the Hispanic and the
County households' high-speed usage runs 19 Black groups with 27 and 25
percentage points higher than the U.S. usage percent access levels, respectively.
level (Exhibit10). These differences are likely driven '97 '03
Census Update Survey 2003

Exhibit 12 by differences in income. Black and Hispanic less likely her or she is to have access to the
Hispanic, Black groups have lower median incomes than the Internet. The recurring monthly costs, lack of
groups lag in other major population groups. Since broad- familiarity with this new technology, and little
high-speed band access is nearly twice the cost of need for job-related or educational tasks are
internet access popular dial-up access (i.e., AOL), households probably the main reasons for such a low level
Percent of Montgomery within these groups have passed up this more of Internet access among the elderly.
County population by costly service in favor of dial-up service. As
group with broadband Black and Hispanic population groups may
internet access, 2003 high speed Internet services become more
also benefit from measures to raise their
affordable (typically costing $50 per month for
100% Internet access levels closer to the County's
cable and $39 per month for DSL service)
other population groups; however, all groups
differences in access between these groups
enjoy very high levels of access (79.7 percent
are expected to greatly diminish.
or greater).
Income also influences home access to the
Internet. Access falls off most sharply in those
White, NH



households with incomes under $30,000

(Exhibit 13). Only 50 percent of households in
the $15,000 to $29,999 income group have
Exhibit 13 access and, if the household has an income
Home computer under $15,000, only 35 percent can access the
ownership falls Internet at home.
below 50% at
incomes < $15K Conclusion
Percent of Montgomery The assumption that there is some degree of
County households by
income group with
digital gap in Montgomery County is correct;
computers, 2003 however, the gap has receded since 1997, and,
in most cases, is quite small.
This report did not compare any gaps to a
standard to determine whether our situation is
one for concern or how it might compare to
other communities.
0% The County enjoys a higher level of Internet
Under $15K

access and use of high-speed access than is

found at the national level. Ninety-two percent
of the population has access to computers at
home and 86 percent have access to the
Internet. Nearly 100 percent of children and
young adults (19 and younger), have a com- For More Information
puter at home and 91 percent have access to Census Update Survey 2003
the Internet in their homes.
Report Author: Gary Good win
Populations that may need additional help in Project Manager: Pamela Zorich
terms of digital access could include lower The Census Update Survey 2003 is a project of:
income households and seniors 75 and older. The Research & Technology Center
Internet access falls off sharply as household Montgomery County Department of Park & Planning
Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission
income decreases below $30,000. At those
8787 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring MD 20910
income levels, fewer than 50 percent of voice: 301.495.4700 fax:301.495.1305
households in this group can access the Additional results from the Census Update Survey 2003, as
Internet at home. The older a senior is, the well as other demographic data about Montgomery County,
are available on-line from the Research & Technology
Center at