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One-Third of Americans Own Tablet Computers, as Digital Divide Grows

One-Third of Americans Own Tablet Computers, as Digital Divide Grows
Garry Knight/Flickr

Some 34 percent of American adults have a tablet computer, such as an iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Google Nexus or Kindle Fire, according to a report released by Pew Research Center.

The number has shot up sharply, almost doubling since last year. It's all about how old you are (or aren't). There's also yet more evidence of the Digital Divide between the affluent and the poor:

People in each age group and ethnic group tend to own more tablet computers now than in April 2012.

According to John Villasenor, a professor of electrical engineering and public policy at UCLA:

In the early 1990s, there were concerns that mobile phones would remain financially inaccessible for people with fewer resources. However, mobile phone ownership levels ended up growing very quickly across all income levels. I think we'll see the same thing with tablets as prices continue to fall.

But the biggest increases in tablet ownership are among people who are better-educated and from higher-income families, demonstrating the divide between America's well-off versus the working class and poor.

The study found:

  • 56 percent of adults living in households making $75,000 per year now have tablet computers, compared to 34 percent of 2012.
  • Almost half (49 percent) of college graduates now own tablet computers, up from 28 percent in 2012.

But when it comes to people from households earning less than $30,000 a year, the numbers tumble:

One in five of those adults own tablet computers, well below the average 34 percent when all income levels are included.

For those with high school education, 26 percent now have tablet computers, up from 13 percent last year. A dismal 17 percent of adults with less than high school education have tablets, according to Pew Research Center.

According to John Simpson, director of the Privacy Project at Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group:

Any kind of technology, when they first adapted, it first comes to people with the money. If you don't have more money buying more things, tablets are something, to a certain extent, a luxury item.

There is a large part of society who have no access to Internet. That's a problem.

One in five American adults don't use the Internet, according to a 2012 study on digital access by Pew Research Center. The least likely groups to have Internet access are adults with less than a high school education, those living in households earning less than $30,000 per year, and senior citizens.

For some lower-income groups, the most popular way to access Internet is through smart phones, Simpson says.

According to Research Analyst Kathryn Zickuhr:

"One of the things that is especially interesting about tablet adoption compared to some of the patterns of other devices we've studied is how these technologies' growth has played out between different age groups."

Unlike smart phones, which are most popular with younger adults, people in their late 30s and early 40s tend to own more tablet computers. Almost half (49 percent) of adults ages 35-44 own tablet computers.

The biggest hike in tablet computer ownership comes from parents with minor children living at home.

Half of those parents now own tablet computers -- which seems a fun adult toy they can use while their children are around. That's an increase from the 26 percent who owned them in 2012.