Differences in actual and perceived online skills: The role of gender

Eszter Hargittai*, Steven Shafer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

354 Scopus citations


Objective. The literature on gender and technology use finds that women and men differ significantly in their attitudes toward their technological abilities. Concurrently, existing work on science and math abilities of students suggests that such perceived differences do not always translate into actual disparities. We examine the yet-neglected area concerning gender differences with respect to Internet-use ability. In particular, we test how self-perceived abilities are related to actual abilities and how these may differ by gender. Methods. We use new data on web-use skill to test empirically whether there are differences in men's and women's abilities to navigate online content. We draw on a diverse sample of adult Internet users to investigate the questions raised. Results. Findings suggest that men and women do not differ greatly in their online abilities. However, we find that women's self-assessed skill is significantly lower than that of men. Conclusions. Women's lower self-assessment regarding their web-use skills may affect significantly the extent of their online behavior and the types of uses to which they put the medium. We discuss the implications of these findings for social inequality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)432-448
Number of pages17
JournalSocial Science Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)

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