Pew Studies Internet Use & Income Levels

The PEW Internet and American Life Project has come out with a new study about internet use based on household income that includes some data on how these segments use search. There’s also interesting stuff here about how income correlates to likelihood to rate and review products, pay for online content, book travel, and access online news.

The top-level conclusions are that Americans in higher income brackets (over $75,000 a year) use the internet  more often than those in lower income brackets. Those in higher income brackets are also more likely to have broadband access), which PEW has previously correlated to higher internet usage. the study correlates income to mobile device usage as well as PEW found that a greater percentage of higher income households (95% vs 83%) own cell phones.

How Americans In Higher Income Brackets use the Internet

The study found that 95% of Americans making over $75,000 a year use the internet and that among them:

  • 93% use email
  • 80% access news online
  • 88% conduct online product research
  • 83% make travel reservations online
  • 81% purchase products and services online
  • 80% research medical information online

On a given day:

  • 20% of Americans in the higher income brackets search for map or location information
  • 40% research products
  • 50% get news online

Those in the highest bracket (over $150,000 a year) use the internet more often in all categories measured by the study:

  • 89% have searched online for maps or directions
  • 86% conduct online product research
  • 82% access news online
  • 55% pay for online content

(Note that this data about online searches for maps or directions are likely a subset of the searches that have local intent.)

Details On Specific Usage

There are some interesting breakdowns here by vertical.

Accessing news

  • 74% of those in the higher income group get news online in a typical day vs. 34% of those in lower income brackets.
  • 22% in the higher brackets get news from national print papers in a typical day vs. 12% for the lower income groups.
  • 50% of both the lowest and highest income brackets typically get news from a local print paper.

Government and politics

  • 61% of those in the higher income group look for political news online vs. 35% of those in lower income brackets.
  • 79% in the higher brackets have visited a government web site vs. 56% of those in the lower income brackets.

Health information

  • 80% in the higher income groups search for information on medical issues vs. 54% of those in lower income brackets.
  • 54% in the higher income groups search for information on doctors vs. 32% of those in the lower income brackets.

Product research

  • 88% in the higher income groups research products online vs. 67% in the lower income brackets.
  • 81% in the higher income groups by products online vs. 51% of the lower income brackets.
  • 40% in the higher income groups rate and review products vs. 29% of those in the lower income brackets who review products and 21% of those in the lower income brackets who rate products.


  • 83% of those in the higher income groups make travel reservations online vs. 47% of those in the lower income brackets.

Device Usage

Interested in how what devices your visitors use to view your content? 95% of those in higher income brackets have cell phones and 9% have tablets, such as the iPad.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Consumer | Features: Analysis | Search & Society: General


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. She built Google Webmaster Central and went on to found software and consulting company Nine By Blue and create Blueprint Search Analytics< which she later sold. Her book, Marketing in the Age of Google, (updated edition, May 2012) provides a foundation for incorporating search strategy into organizations of all levels. Follow her on Twitter at @vanessafox.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn


Get all the top search stories emailed daily!  


Other ways to share:

Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. Comments may also be removed if they are posted from anonymous accounts. You can read more about our comments policy here.
  • Moxley_GT

    This is fascinating information – a lot of stands to reason and could probably be predicted , since Income correlates reasonably well with IQ , and thus would expect the interest in news and politics.

    Some things , such as the travel reservation stats are pretty revealing though ; it seems to be the case that, for instance, an upmarket hotel chain can hardly not to have a strong digital presence.

Get Our News, Everywhere!

Daily Email:

Follow Search Engine Land on Twitter @sengineland Like Search Engine Land on Facebook Follow Search Engine Land on Google+ Get the Search Engine Land Feed Connect with Search Engine Land on LinkedIn Check out our Tumblr! See us on Pinterest


Click to watch SMX conference video

Join us at one of our SMX or MarTech events:

United States


Australia & China

Learn more about: SMX | MarTech

Free Daily Search News Recap!

SearchCap is a once-per-day newsletter update - sign up below and get the news delivered to you!



Search Engine Land Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors

Get Your Copy
Read The Full SEO Guide