ESZTER HARGITTAI'S RESEARCH
Digital Inequality: From Unequal Access to Differentiated Use
[click for pdf copy of a final draft of
the full paper]
by Paul DiMaggio, Eszter Hargittai, Coral Celeste and Steven Shafer
2004. In Social Inequality. Edited by Kathryn Neckerman.
New York: Russell Sage Foundation. pp. 355-400.
(Send me a note if you'd like to receive a hard copy of the final
chapter through snail mail.)
This paper reviews what we know about inequality in access to and use of
new digital technologies. Until recently, most research has focused on
inequality in access (the "digital divide"), measured in a variety of
ways. We agree that inequality of access is important, because it is
likely to reinforce inequality in opportunities for economic mobility and
social participation. At the same time we argue that a more thorough
understanding of digital inequality requires placing Internet access in a
broader theoretical context, and asking a wider range of questions about
the impact of information technologies and informational goods on social
inequality. In particular, five key issues around which we structure this
(1) The digital divide. Who has access to the Internet, who does not
access, and how has this changed?
(2) Is access to and use of the Internet more or less unequal than
to and use of other forms of information technology?
(3) Inequality among persons with access to the Internet.
(4) Does access to and use of the Internet affect people's life
(5) How might the changing technology, regulatory environment and
industrial organization of the Internet render obsolete the findings
A brief history of the Internet
Technology and inequality: a selective tour of social-scientific
II. The Digital Divide
What do we mean by access?
Interpreting the trends
The digital divide: a research agenda
III. How Does Online Inequality compare to Inequality in the Use of
Comparing Media Sources: A Research Agenda
IV. Beyond the Digital Divide: Inequality Online
Culture and information in the stratification order
The "Knowledge Gap" hypothesis
Dimensions of inequality online
Research agenda: Modeling digital inequality
V. Does Internet Use Matter?
Do technical skills enhance earnings?
Do technical skills enhance quality of worklife?
Does technology improve school performance?
Does technology reduce inequality in the sphere of consumption?
Does technology enhance political influence and communicaty
Effects of Internet use: research agenda
VI. Social Organization of Technological Inequality
Government policies and Internet adoption
The impact of business strategies
Institutional effects on digital inequality: a research agenda
Report prepared for the Russell Sage Foundation. Authors are from
Princeton University except for Hargittai, who teaches at Northwestern
University. Support from the Russell Sage Foundation, the National
Foundation (grant IIS0086143) and the Markle Foundation is gratefully
acknowledged, as is institutional support from the Princeton Center for
Arts and Cultural Policy Studies and Office of Population Research. This
paper refelcts the impact on the first author's thinking of several
helpful and provocative comments by participants at the Russell Sage
Foundation Inequality project's Harvard meeting in Summer 2001.
This is a pre-print version of the book chapter in the
"Social Inequality" edited by Katherine Neckerman. New York: Russell Sage
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