Digital inequality: Differences in young adults' use of the Internet

Eszter Hargittai*, Amanda Hinnant

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

630 Scopus citations


This article expands understanding of the digital divide to more nuanced measures of use by examining differences in young adults' online activities. Young adults are the most highly connected age group, but that does not mean that their Internet uses are homogenous. Analyzing data about the Web uses of 270 adults from across the United States, the article explores the differences in 18- to 26-year-olds' online activities and what social factors explain the variation. Findings suggest that those with higher levels of education and of a more resource-rich background use the Web for more "capitalenhancing" activities. Detailed analyses of user attributes also reveal that online skill is an important mediating factor in the types of activities people pursue online. The authors discuss the implications of these findings for a "second-level digital divide," that is, differences among the population of young adult Internet users.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)602-621
Number of pages20
JournalCommunication Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2008


  • Digital divide
  • Internet
  • Online behavior
  • Self-perceived knowledge
  • Skill
  • Web use
  • Young adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language


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