GVU's 10th WWW User Survey
General Demographics Summary


There was some backsliding in the percentage of female respondents to the 10th Survey (33.6%) when compared to the previous two surveys (38.7% Ninth, 38.5% Eighth). The current percentage is comparable to the levels of the Seventh survey, which was conducted a year and a half ago (33.4%). More research will be needed to verify whether this represents the beginning of an actual trend, or whether it is an artifact of our sampling method. Interestingly, Europe showed an increased percentage of female respondents--18.4%, up from 16.3% in the Ninth survey six months ago. Regardless of geographic location, new users (those who have been online for less than a year) are still quite gender-balanced with 48.5% being female and 51.5% being male. There is also a new categorization of respondents used in this survey--by skill levels. (See Skill Levels for an explanation). Those who were novices were nearly equally divided between male and female.

Educational Attainment

Respondents are quite highly educated with 87.8% (80.9% Ninth) having at least some college experience and 59.3% (50.1% Ninth) having obtained at least one degree.  These percentages reverse the trend of decreasing education levels that we have observed over the past 4 surveys. However, trends can only be observed over time, so future surveys will tell whether this is an actual trend or a momentary reversal. The relationship between skill level is an interesting one: respondents with college degrees account for the largest percentage of experts, but all skill levels occur at all levels of educational attainment. In other words, by our definition of novice and expert, there are some experts who are still in high school and some novices who have Ph.Ds.

Primary Language

Since the survey is only available in English and the majority of the advertising for the survey is in English, it is not surprising that the majority of respondents (92.2%) cite English as their primary language (i.e. the one they speak most of the time, regardless of whether it is their "native" language).  This is nearly identical to the percentages in the Eighth and Ninth Surveys (93.1% for both).  After English, German (1.5%), French (0.8%), and Dutch (0.8%) were the most commonly used languages. 


As in all previous surveys, the respondents continue to be predominantly white (87.2% Tenth, 87.4% Ninth). For the Tenth survey, we added a new category of "Multiracial" which describes 1.6% of respondents. Younger respondents are more diverse racially than older respondents. Among respondents who have been online for less than a year, 3.8% are African-American. African-Americans only account for 1.7% of respondents who have been online for more than a year.


The Tenth survey shows a sizable increase in average age--from 35.1 years old in the Ninth survey to 37.6 years old in the Tenth. For the past two years, the average age had been hovering around 35 years, but it may be on the move again. As in previous surveys, the age profile for Europe is quite different from the US profile, resulting in an average age of 30.9 years. Males and females are identical in average age, but there are more females in the 25-50 age range than in the older or younger extremes. Average age decreases with both the number of years someone has been on the Internet and with their skill level. The average age for someone with less than one year on the Internet increased by 4.5 years to 41.4 years old.



Entire Sample





















Years on the Internet

< 1 Yr



1 -3 Yrs



> 3 Yrs



Skill Level










Table 1 - Average Age for Different Categories


Marital Status

The largest category of respondents is married (47.6%) and the next largest is single (31.7%).  These percentages represent a shift toward married respondents and away from singles, but the relative rankings are unchanged.

Major Geographic Location

As in all previous surveys, the majority of respondents are currently in the US (84.7%, 84.4% Ninth).  The next most common locations are Europe (7.3%, 5.8% Ninth), Canada (3.8%, 4.9% Ninth) and Oceania (2.0%, 2.3% Ninth).  90% of the female respondents are currently in the US.  The US also has the highest percentage of new users with 90% of respondents who have been online for less than a year. Skill levels are distributed across the different geographic locations with the US having the highest percentage of both novice (87.9%) and expert (85.0%) respondents.

Kind of Area You Live In

This question was new for the Tenth survey. The majority of respondents report living in a suburban area (48.9%) while 37.3% are in an urban area and 13.8% in a rural area. Respondents from the US were much more likely to be in a suburban (52.4%) area than respondents from other countries. Respondents from Europe were most likely to be in an urban area (62.9%).

Primary Industry, Occupation, and Sector

The questions related to occupation were revised for the Tenth survey, resulting in several new questions. Most importantly, the industry a respondent works in and their specific occupation were separated into different questions. The industries respondents work in are quite diverse with the largest percentages being in University Education (11.6%), Other (7.7%), Information Services (6.8%) and Software (6.0%). Respondents from Europe are even more likely to be in University Education and Software than respondents from other countries. Males are more likely than females to be in computer-related fields, but the reverse is true for Health, K-12 Education, Homemaker, and Unemployed. Not surprisingly, those in the computer industry have been online longer than those in other fields. The largest category of novices work in Other (10.5%) industries while the largest category of experts works in Information Services (13.3%) and University Education (13.3%).

The largest category of respondents considers themselves to be Trained Professionals (27.4%). The next largest categories are Middle Management (10.5%), Students (10.4%), and Self-employed (10%). Students and researchers are far more likely to be from Europe than from the US. The majority of both males and females are Trained Professionals, but men are somewhat more likely to be in management, Skilled Labor, and Consultants than women are. Women are far more likely than men to be in Administrative or Other positions. 13.6% of respondents over 50 years old are Self-Employed--the largest group of self-employed respondents.

More than half of respondents (62.4%) work in the private sector. Another 19.4% work in the public sector and 8.3% are in not-for-profit organizations.

Years on Internet

The Tenth survey has an interesting profile for the number of years respondents have been on the Internet, with the largest category having been on 4-6 years (37.1%). Previously, the largest category had been online for 1-3 years. This shift toward more experienced users (on average) is consistent with other results showing that the growth of the Internet (in terms of percentages) is slowing down. In other words, even though there are still many new users coming online, they constitute a smaller and smaller percentage of the total population as time passes. The availability of commercial online services (such as AOL and Prodigy) was a major catalyst for the first wave of growth in the online population and we have yet to see what might spawn a second wave.

A question that has been raised many times is how years spent on the Internet relates to skill level. As we would expect, skill level generally rises with the number of years spent on the Internet. It is important to note, however, that even though they are related, they are not the same. For example, we find that a small percentage of respondents who have been online for more than 6 years still fall into our novice category (3.1%). Similarly, some experts, by our definition, have been online for 6-12 months (9.0%).

Where You Access the Web From

This question was turned into a new set of five questions for the Tenth survey. Instead of concentrating on where someone "primarily" accesses the web from, this set of questions determines how frequently respondents access the web from each of five different places. 78.7% of respondents access the web from Home on a daily basis. Only 4.6% never access the Web from home. Almost a third of respondents never access the web from Work (31.5%). This is in dramatic contrast to the early days of the web when most users accessed the web primarily from work. In previous surveys, we had speculated that there was a growing category of new web users that specifically sought out web access. These results support this notion since 64.3% of new respondents (online less than a year) never having accessed the web from work. A majority of respondents (71.5%) have never accessed the web from a public terminal. Public terminals seem to be most frequently used by younger respondents with 53% of those aged 11-20 years having used them at least once. This may be a reflection of students using web terminals in public libraries. Respondents also apparently access the web from places other than these, at least occasionally. Further refinement of these questions is needed to determine what places have been omitted.


Who Pays For Access

Respondents could choose more than one answer for this question.  The vast majority of respondents pay for their own Internet access (78.7%), at least in part. This is an increase over the Ninth survey where 67.2% of respondents paid for their own access. 40% of respondents report that their Internet access is paid for by Work.

Household Income

This question had the highest percentage of respondents choose not to answer (17.3%) and more females than males chose not to answer (18.2% females, 16.9% males).  The average income was $57,300 (US) which is a noticeable increase from the Eighth and Ninth surveys ($52.5K and $53K, respectively). As with many of the basic demographics (e.g. Educational Attainment, Gender) the results from this survey reverse a trend of decreasing household income observed during the last several surveys. Respondents over 50 years old reported the highest income level compared to other age groups. Those with more years or skills on the Internet reported higher incomes than other categories.

Entire Sample







11- 20 yrs




21- 25 yrs





26 - 50 yrs




50+ yrs




Years on Internet

<1 yr


Skill Level



1-3 yrs




>4 yrs







Table 2: Average Household Income by Category

Explanation of Skill Levels

In the General Demographics questionnaire, one question asked whether or not the respondent had performed the following activities online:

Respondents were then classified into the following categories:

A further refinement not explored in these results would be to "weight" different activities as more characteristic of expert users. For this first time, though, we thought a simple sum would be sufficient.

Skill Test

Respondents could choose more than one answer for this question.  Across all skill levels, the most common activities for our respondents are: changing their browser start-up page (80.5%), using an online directory to find an address or phone number (80%), and placing an order online (74%). The least common activities are: making a telephone call online (16.9%), taking a seminar about the Internet (26.1%), and making a purchase online for more than $100 (46.0%). Women are more likely than men to have taken a seminar about the Internet (29.6% women, 24.4% men) but men are more likely to have done all of the other activities. Younger respondents were more likely to have customized their browser features than older respondents were. Older respondents were more likely to have bought books about the Internet than other age groups (58.3% of those over age 50). 89% of respondents age 11-20 have participated in online chat compared to only 46.9% of those over age 50.

The skill level descriptions used throughout the Tenth survey results (Novice, Intermediate, Experienced, Expert) are based only on the number of online activities a respondent had participated in - not which ones they were. An analysis of the skill test question by skill level reveals that some activities are common for novices while others are rare. For example 41.5% of novices had used an online directory, 32.5% had placed an order online, 28.3% have used online chat, and 28% have changed the startup page in their browser. There are a number of activities which are common for experts, but rare for novices. In some ways, these activities could be considered "markers" of online expertise. They are listed in the table below:

Online Activity

Percent of Novices

Percent of Experts

Created a Web page



Customized a Web page



Changed Cookie preferences



Listened to the Radio Online





Other Questions Asked but Not Presented in this Summary

How did you find out about the GVU's Tenth WWW User Survey?

Are you disabled or impaired?

Are you currently registered to vote?

During an average week, most of your professional correspondence (postal mail or email) is with which of the following (sectors)?

What is your organization's total budget for this year, from all sources?

Please indicate which of the following are sources of revenue for your organization..

How many children under 16 years old live in your household?

What is your primary computing platform?

Complete the following sentence in the way that comes closest to your own views: 'Since getting on the Internet, I have ...' (Community Membership)

Which of these groups have you become more connected to through the Internet?

Some Web sites ask for you to register with the site by providing personal information. When asked for such information, what percent of the time do you falsify the information?

In your opinion, what is the single most critical issue facing the Internet?

Please indicate your agreement/disagreement with the following statement: I believe that certain information should not be published on the Internet.

Why don't you purchase more products and services on the web, either for yourself or for your work/business?

How comfortable do you feel using computers, in general?

How comfortable do you feel using the Internet?

How satisfied are you with your current skills for using the Internet?

US State, Canadian Province, or Country