Causes and Trends of the Digital Divide
Type of work: Article (academic)
In modern societies, the digital divide indicates the emergence of a new form of social inequality. To analyse this concept we study causes of private computer and Internet access with a three-fold model including human capital, family context and social context. The 1997, 2001, and 2003 German Socio-Economic Panel waves contain data on private computer and Internet use, as well as information on past and present socio-economic circumstances. In 2003, membership of technical generations and ethnic background to a large extent determined the use of new technologies. By illustrating the importance of human capital and family context we are able to explain additional differences found for computer and Internet use. Effects of income, gender, and living in a single household are significant. Our study shows that some of the long-term consequences of the 40-year German separation are diminishing with regard to computer use. We demonstrate that human and social capital are more important than economic capital in explaining private computer and Internet use. Indications for higher social classes to secure or even increase their favourable social positions exist.