World Reimagined

Meet the 17.9 Million Americans Who Don't Use the Internet

Analog vs digital; typewriter next to a laptop
Credit: beeboys -

While most people view the online world as an essential part to their day-to-day activities, 7% of the country’s adults doesn’t use it at all. That represents roughly 17.9 million of the 255 million people over the age of 18 living in the U.S. as of July 1, 2019.

recent study from the Pew Research Center found a number of factors contribute to the figure, but the biggest was age. Roughly a quarter of Americans who are 65 or older say they never go online. That’s about 13.5 million seniors opting to bypass the information superhighway.

Not surprisingly, the younger the population, the more they’re plugged in. Just 1% of adults between the ages of 18 and 29 say they don’t go online.

The gap is closing, though.

“Over time, the nation’s offline population has been shrinking, and for some groups that change has been especially dramatic,” said the Pew report. “For example, 86% of adults ages 65 and older did not go online in 2000; today that figure has fallen to just a quarter.”

Income is also a factor. Some 14% of adults who make less than $30,000 per year avoid going online, perhaps due to the high cost of broadband in the U.S.

The average broadband bill in the U.S. is $59.99 per month, according to That’s significantly higher than many other countries. The U.K., for example, averages $34.78. Italy is $32.73. And South Korea is just $31.15.

There are steps being taken to make U.S. prices more affordable, though. President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure proposal includes $100 billion earmarked to make "affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband" to all Americans. And several providers offer low-cost programs to people who are eligible for public assistance. (Comcast’s Internet Essentials package offers 50 Mbps for $9.95 per month, while Spectrum’s Internet Assist offers 30 Mbps downstream speeds for $14.99 per month.

Also playing a role is people’s educational/school levels. Fourteen percent of people with a high school diploma or less do not go online, compared to just 2% of people with college and advanced degrees.

Interestingly, there were no significant differences in non-internet use when it came to gender, race and ethnicity, or community type (rural vs. suburban vs. urban).

Access to the internet, of course, has also become more important as a business and educational essential in the past year. But it was growing quickly before COVID-19, as well. Prior to the pandemic, 64% of students who did not have home internet access said they often or sometimes left homework unfinished, since they lacked the means to complete it.

“Broadband access affects educational achievements indirectly and in combination with other factors,” Johannes Bauer, director of the James H. and Mary B. Quello Center for Media and Information Policy at Michigan State University, told The Pew Charitable Trusts last December. “Even if we control for socioeconomic and other factors that might be in play, students with no home access, slow home access, or cell-only access had approximately half a letter grade lower overall.”

It’s worth noting that while 7% of the country is offline today, that’s a considerable improvement since the start of the century. In 2000, 48% of adults in the U.S. said they didn’t use the Internet. By 2005, that was down to 32%, then 24% in 2010. And just six years ago, the number was 15%.

The faster that number shrinks, the better it is for the economy. More and more, businesses are relying on their ecommerce divisions to enhance their earnings – a trend that was well underway before the pandemic.

In 2014, the number of online global shoppers was 1.32 billion people, according to shopping app Oberlo. Last year, it was 2.05 billion – nearly one-quarter of the earth’s population.

Even things like grocery shopping, which have traditionally been done in person, are starting to shift. In 2018, 22% of the U.S. population bought groceries online. But last March, as the pandemic started, that figure shot up to 42%.

The good news for retailers of all kinds is not only are younger generations embracing an online lifestyle more than ever, boomers in their peak spending years are doing the same. The number of adults who forego online access between the ages 50 to 64 has dropped from 12% to 4% since 2019.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Chris Morris

Chris Morris is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience, more than half of which were spent with some of the Internet’s biggest sites, including, where he was Director of Content Development, and Yahoo! Finance, where he was managing editor. Today, he writes for dozens of national outlets including Digital Trends, Fortune, and

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