Fri, Feb 23, 2001 EST
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Internet Penetration Reaches 56 Percent in U.S.
By Anick Jesdanun   Associated Press
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NEW YORK — The Internet was used by more than half of the U.S. adult population last year as some 16 million new users ventured online in the last six months, according to a study released Sunday.

In addition, nearly three-quarters of children ages 12 to 17 had Internet access, said the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which has been tracking Internet usage and habits since March.

It said the online adult population has hit 56 percent, totalling 104 million adults.

The study also found continued gains among women, minorities and adults in households earning $30,000 to $50,000. Another strong group consisted of parents with children still living at home.

"As more people go online, the value of being online increases," said Pew center director Lee Rainie.

That, he said, encourages even more Americans to log on.

But the study found that two key gaps remain:

— Only 38 percent of the poorest Americans, those earning less than $30,000, had Internet access. That compares with 82 percent for Americans in households earning $75,000 or more.

— Only 15 percent of the 65-and-up group were online, compared with 75 percent of the 18-29 age bracket.

For the survey, Internet access includes usage at home or work, as well as libraries, cybercafes and other public settings.

The findings were based on a random telephone survey of 3,493 adults, including 2,038 Internet users, conducted from Nov. 22 to Dec. 21. The survey had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The Pew survey found people logging on more often. On a given day, 56 percent of Internet users were online, compared with 52 percent during a midyear sampling. There were notable increases in daily use among women and blacks.

E-mail was the most popular feature, used by 93 percent. Top uses on the Web were looking for hobby information, browsing for fun and getting news.

Pew found that 52 percent had bought something online, a jump of 6 percentage points. That translates to 14 million more online shoppers in the last six months of 2000.

"This was all taking place in a season where the major story was the (financial) troubles in the dot-com world," Rainie noted.

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