The Evolution of the Digital Divide: How Gaps in Internet Access May Impact Electronic Commerce

Authors

  • Donna L. Hoffman,

    Corresponding author
    1. Associate Professor of Management at the Owen Graduate School of Management, Vanderbilt University, and co-founder and co-director of eLab. Her research emphasizes online consumer behavior, Internet marketing strategy and Internet policy. She is published on these topics in a diverse set of scholarly journals including Journal of Marketing, Marketing Science, Science, Communications of the ACM and TheInformation Society. Professor Hoffman received her Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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  • Thomas P. Novak,

    Corresponding author
    1. Associate Professor of Management at the Owen Graduate School of Management, Vanderbilt University, and co-founder and co-director of eLab. He received his Ph.D. in 1984 from the Psychometric Laboratory, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research interests include Internet and Web-based commerce, modeling consumer online navigation behavior, electronic commerce policy, and consumer behavior in online environments. His research has appeared in Communications of the ACM, The Information Society, Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Research, Marketing Science, and SCIENCE.
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  • Ann Schlosser

    Corresponding author
    1. Assistant Professor of Marketing at Vanderbilt University. Before coming to Vanderbilt, Dr. Schlosser was a postdoctoral research associate in interactive marketing at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). In 1997, she received the @d:tech Scholarship for individual contribution to understanding the influence of technology on advertising, communication, and marketing. Her research has appeared in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, Journal of Interactive Marketing, Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Handbook on Electronic Commerce and Advertising and The World Wide Web. Dr. Schlosser specializes in consumer behavior in virtual environments. Her current research projects include studying consumer interaction in computer-mediated environments, Web site design and its impact on attitude strength and brand loyalty, and consumer control in computer environments.
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Address: Owen Graduate School of Management, Vanderbilt University, 401 21st Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37203

Abstract

Enthusiasm for the anticipated social dividends of the Internet appears boundless. Indeed, the Internet is expected to do no less than virtually transform society. Yet even as the Internet races ambitiously toward critical mass, some social scientists are beginning to examine carefully the policy implications of current demographic patterns of Internet access and usage. Key demographic variables like income and education drive the policy questions surrounding the Internet because they are the most likely have a differential impact on the consequences of interactive electronic media for different segments in our society. Given these concerns, we set out to conduct a systematic investigation of the differences between whites and African Americans in the United States with respect to computer access, the primary current prerequisite for Internet access, and Web use. We wished to examine whether observed race differences in access and use can be accounted for by differences in income and education, how access influences use, and when race matters in the calculus of equal access. The particular emphasis of this research is on how such differences may be changing over time. We believe our results may be used as a window through which policymakers might view the job of ensuring access to the Internet for the next generation.

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