Even as the Internet industry struggles through a shakeout, e-commerce has gained broader public acceptance: More than a third of Americans have now bought something online, double what it was two years ago.
Thirty-seven percent of Americans have made a purchase over the Internet, according to a nationwide, random-sample telephone survey for ABCNEWS.com. That's a 10-point increase since last August, and an increase of 18 points since the summer of 1999.
Increasing participation in e-commerce is a bolt of sunshine in the gloom of the Internet industry: Webmergers.com reports that more than 590 Internet companies have gone belly-up since the start of 2000. But the company also says consolidation has slowed, with Internet shutdowns steady in June and down in July to their lowest level since September 2000.
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There's also a troubling side to the data, however: Inequality among demographic groups in e-commerce participation has increased markedly across income, age and race lines. These probably relate, at least in part, to Internet access.
The greatest gap is among income groups. Fifty-six percent of people in over-$50,000 households have made an online purchase, compared to only 15 percent of those in under-$25,000 households. And this 41-point gap has grown from 28 points two years ago.
Similarly, half of those with at least some college education have shopped online, compared with only 7 percent of people who lack a high school diploma.
Young adults are only a bit more apt than their middle-aged counterparts to have made an online purchase. But online buying drops sharply among those 55 and older, and falls even more sharply among those 65-plus. Growth in online buying since 1999, moreover, is much weaker among older Americans.
And while nearly four in 10 white Americans have become e-consumers, barely over one in 10 black Americans have followed suit.
The gap between the sexes is less broad: Four in 10 men have bought something online (up 15 points since 1999), as have 33 percent of women (up 19 points).
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Finally, the West, home to Silicon Valley, holds the regional crown when it comes to e-commerce. Nearly half of those living in the West have shopped online, more than in any other region.
The survey was conducted by telephone Aug. 15-19 among a random national sample of 1,023 adults. The results have a three-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation were done by TNS Intersearch of Horsham, Pa.
Previous ABCNEWS polls can be found in our Poll Vault.