Skip Navigation
Digest of Education Statistics: 2019
Digest of Education Statistics: 2019

NCES 2021-009
February 2021

Chapter 7: Libraries and Use of Technology

This chapter presents statistics on access to and use of computers and the Internet among children and adults of various racial/ethnic groups, age groups, educational attainment levels, and income levels. These tables are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Other chapters also provide information on use of computers and technology. Chapter 2 includes tables on use of computers and the Internet by elementary and secondary students and schools. Chapter 3 includes tables on distance and online education at the postsecondary level.

This chapter also includes tables on elementary and secondary school libraries, college and university libraries (including institution-level information for the 60 largest college libraries in the country), and public libraries. It contains data on library collections, staff, and expenditures, as well as library usage. The tables on libraries in educational institutions are based on National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data, while the table on public libraries is based on Institute of Museum and Library Services data.

Computer and Internet Use

Access to Computers and Other Devices

Ninety-eight percent of all 3- to 18-year-old children had some type of computer or smartphone in their household in 2018 (table 702.10). A higher percentage of 3- to 18-year-old children lived in a household with a smartphone (95 percent) than in a household with a desktop or laptop (83 percent) or in a household with a tablet or other portable wireless computer (78 percent).

The percentages of children ages 3 to 18 with various types of devices in their household differed by race/ethnicity in 2018 (table 702.10). For example, 94 percent of Asian children had a desktop or laptop in their household, compared with 90 percent of White children, 87 percent of children of Two or more races, 74 percent of Hispanic children, 72 percent of Black children, 71 percent of Pacific Islander children, and 63 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native children. The percentages of children who lived in a household with a smartphone were higher for Asian children (98 percent), children of Two or more races (97 percent), and White children (96 percent) than for Hispanic children (94 percent), Black children (93 percent), Pacific Islander children (91 percent), and American Indian/Alaska Native children (86 percent).

In 2018, the percentages of children ages 3 to 18 who lived in households with desktops or laptops, smartphones, and tablets or other portable wireless computers were higher for those with higher family incomes than for those with lower family incomes (table 702.10). For example, the percentage of children living in a household with a desktop or laptop computer was highest for children with family incomes of over $100,000 (96 percent) and lowest for children with family incomes of less than $10,000 (56 percent). The percentages of children who lived in a household with a smartphone and who lived in a household with a tablet or other portable wireless computer were also highest for children with family incomes of over $100,000 (98 and 92 percent, respectively) and lowest for children with family incomes of less than $10,000 (88 and 53 percent, respectively).

In 2018, the percentages of children who lived in households with various types of computers were higher for children whose parent(s) had higher levels of educational attainment than for those whose parent(s) had lower levels of educational attainment (table 702.10 and figure 30). For example, the percentage of children with a desktop or laptop in their household was higher for those who had a parent with a bachelor’s or higher degree (97 percent) than for those whose parent(s)’s highest level of education was an associate’s degree (90 percent), some college (82 percent), a high school diploma or equivalent (69 percent), and less than high school (55 percent). Also, the percentage of children with a smartphone in their household was higher for those who had a parent with a bachelor’s or higher degree (98 percent) than for those whose parent(s)’s highest level of education was an associate’s degree (97 percent), some college (96 percent), a high school diploma or equivalent (93 percent), and less than high school (88 percent).

Children’s Internet Access by Household Characteristics

In 2018, about 88 percent of 3- to 18-year-olds had access to the Internet in their household through a desktop or laptop, tablet, or some other type of computer and 6 percent had internet access in their household only through a smartphone (web-only table 702.12). The remaining 6 percent of 3- to 18-year-olds had no access to the Internet in their household. These percentages varied by parental education, family income, and race/ethnicity. For example, the percentage of children with access to the Internet through a desktop, laptop, or tablet in their household was higher for those who had a parent with a bachelor's or higher degree (98 percent) than for those whose parent(s)’s highest level of education was an associate's degree (93 percent), some college (88 percent), a high school diploma or equivalent (78 percent), and less than high school (65 percent). Similarly, higher levels of family income were positively associated with having access to the Internet through a desktop or laptop within the household. For example, the percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds living in a household with access to the Internet through a desktop, laptop, or tablet was highest for children with family incomes of over $100,000 (97 percent) and lowest for children with family incomes of less than $10,000 (65 percent). Also, the percentages of 3- to 18-year-olds who were Asian (96 percent), White (93 percent), and of Two or more races (92 percent) who lived in households with internet access through a desktop, laptop, or tablet were higher than the percentages for Hispanic children (81 percent), Black children (79 percent), Pacific Islander children (76 percent), or American Indian/Alaska Native children (70 percent).

The percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds who did not have access to the Internet was inversely related to family income in 2018 (web-only table 702.12). For example, the percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds living in a household without access to the Internet was higher for those with family incomes of less than $10,000 (18 percent) than for those with family incomes of over $100,000 (2 percent). Also, the percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds without access to the Internet was lower for those who had a parent with a bachelor's or higher degree (1 percent) than for those whose parent(s)’s highest level of education was an associate's degree (4 percent), some college (6 percent), a high school diploma or equivalent (10 percent), or less than high school (18 percent). In addition, lower percentages of 3- to 18-year-olds who were Asian (2 percent), of Two or more races (3 percent), and White (4 percent) had no access to the Internet in their households than 3- to 18-year-olds who were Hispanic (9 percent), Black (10 percent), Pacific Islander (13 percent), or American Indian/Alaska Native (20 percent).

Internet Usage at All Ages

Seventy-eight percent of the U.S. population age 3 and older used the Internet in 2017, up from 70 percent in 2011 (table 702.30). While this overall percentage of internet users was 8 percentage points higher in 2017 than in 2011, this pattern was not consistent across age groups. For example, there was no measurable change in the percentage of 15- to 18-year-olds using the Internet (85 percent in both years). The percentage of internet users among 19- to 24-year-olds was 2 percentage points higher in 2017 (85 percent) than in 2011 (83 percent). In contrast, there were larger increases in internet use among the younger and older age groups. The percentage of internet users among 3- and 4-year-olds nearly doubled from 2011 (26 percent) to 2017 (51 percent), and the percentage of users among 5- to 10-year-olds was 18 percentage points higher (69 percent in 2017 vs. 51 percent in 2011). Among the older age groups, the internet use rate for 60- to 69-year-olds was 76 percent in 2017, compared to 64 percent in 2011. These increases resulted in a reduction of the gaps in internet use between different age groups. For example, the gap in the percentage of 5- to 10-year-olds and 15- to 18-year-olds using the Internet fell from 34 percentage points in 2011 to 16 percentage points in 2017. Similarly, the gap between the internet use of 25- to 29-year-olds and 60- to 69-year-olds fell from 17 percentage points in 2011 to 10 percentage points in 2017.

Internet usage differed by various demographic characteristics in 2017 (table 702.30 and figure 31). For example, the percentage of internet users was higher for persons age 3 and over who were of Two or more races (82 percent), White (80 percent), and Asian (79 percent) than for those who were Black (73 percent) and Hispanic (72 percent). The percentage of internet users who were American Indian/Alaska Native (63 percent) was lower than the percentages for all other racial/ethnic groups. The percentage of the population age 3 and over who used the Internet was generally higher for those with higher family incomes than for those with lower family incomes. For example, about 86 percent of persons with family incomes of $100,000 or more used the Internet, compared with 68 percent of persons with family incomes of $20,000 to $29,999. Among persons age 25 and over, the percentage of internet users tended to be higher for those with higher levels of educational attainment. For example, the percentage of persons age 25 and over who used the Internet was higher for those whose highest level of education was a bachelor’s or higher degree (89 percent) than for those whose highest level of education was an associate’s degree (86 percent), some college (83 percent), a high school diploma or equivalent (70 percent), and less than high school (51 percent).

Similar to the patterns observed for decreased gaps in internet use between young children and older teens and between young adults and older adults between 2011 and 2017, there were also decreases in gaps among other demographic groups (table 702.30). The difference between the percentage of internet users among White and Black persons 3 years old and over was smaller in 2017 (7 percentage points) than in 2011 (15 percentage points). The difference in use between White and Hispanic persons in this age group was also lower in 2017 (8 percentage points) than in 2011 (21 percentage points). The gap between the internet use in families with incomes below $10,000 and above $100,000 was also lower in 2017 (23 percentage points) than in 2011 (38 percentage points). Similarly, the difference in the percentage of internet users among those 25 and over with a bachelor’s or higher degree and those who had not completed high school was lower in 2017 (37 percentage points) than in 2011 (58 percentage points).

Libraries

Among public schools that had a library in 2011–12, the average number of library staff per school was 1.8, including 0.9 certified library/media specialists (web-only table 701.10). On average, public school libraries had larger numbers of books on a per student basis in 2011–12 (2,188 per 100 students) than in 1999–2000 (1,803 per 100 students), 2003–04 (1,891 per 100 students), and 2007–08 (2,015 per 100 students). In 2011–12, public elementary school libraries had larger holdings on a per student basis than did public secondary school libraries (2,570 books per 100 students, compared with 1,474 books per 100 students).

In 2017–18, there were libraries at 92 percent of degree-granting postsecondary institutions overall, including 95 percent of public institutions, 96 percent of private nonprofit institutions, and 76 percent of private for-profit institutions (table 701.40). The calculations of library operating expenditures and number of books per full-time-equivalent (FTE) student in the following paragraph include both institutions with libraries and those without libraries.

At degree-granting postsecondary institutions, library operating expenditures per FTE student were 25 percent lower in 2011–12 than in 2001–02, after adjustment for inflation (table 701.40). Library operating expenditures per FTE student then increased by 16 percent from 2011–12 to 2017–18. The net result of these changes was that operating expenditures per FTE student were 13 percent lower in 2017–18 than in 2001–02. In 2017–18, library operating expenditures per FTE student averaged $559 (in current dollars) across all degree-granting institutions. The amount varied widely by institution control. However, library operating expenditures averaged $464 per FTE student attending a public institution in 2017–18, compared with $961 per FTE student attending a private nonprofit institution and $87 per FTE student attending a private for-profit institution. In 2017–18, the average number of books (including physical and electronic books) per FTE student also differed for public institutions (85 books), private nonprofit institutions (191 books), and private for-profit institutions (95 books). Across all degree-granting institutions, the average number of books per FTE student in 2017–18 was 110.

In 2017, there were 9,045 public libraries in the United States with a total of 715 million books and serial volumes (table 701.60). The annual number of visits per capita—that is, per resident of the areas served by the libraries—was 4.2, the annual number of reference transactions per capita was 0.8, and the annual number of uses of public-access internet computers per capita was 0.8.

Top