In this post we explore some basic demographic characteristics of non-users and ex-users of the Internet.
The first graph shows that the proportions of non- and ex-users among men and women are almost identical; the proportion of non- and ex-users is only three percentage points bigger among female population. This difference is within the margin of error and suggests that gender is not a significant factor in Internet adoption.
However, age displays a very different pattern from gender. In the graph below we plot the proportion of users, ex-users and non-users across age categories. The graph tells two stories. As expected, the proportion of non-users increases with age. There are no non-users among youngsters, whereas 4-10% of the population aged 18-44 are not using the Internet. This proportion rises to 16% in the following age group. Then the curve rises steeply, indicating that non-use of the Internet is common among the older British population. By and large people who have never used the Internet tend to be elderly, over age 65. Yet, policy makers may more profitably focus on the middle-aged (45 to 64-year-old) population which might be more interested in starting to use the Internet if appropriate policies were implemented.
Age is related to virtually everything on the Internet. Age-effects are ubiquitous. But not here. The proportion of ex-users is a flat line. Ex-use is unrelated to age; across all age groups about 5% have stopped using the Internet. Whatever processes generate ex-use—and there are probably multiple processes—they operate across the entire age range. Furthermore, contrary to much conventional wisdom about “digital natives” or “born digital” the category with the highest proportion of ex-users is young: 18 to 24-year-olds (7%).
The contrast between non-users and ex-users indicates that different mechanisms cause a respondent to be an ex-user or a non-user. While age is an important factor determining who adopts the use of the Internet, it does not have the same power to explain who stops using it. Because of this very different policies will be required to encourage use among these two groups.