Unraveling Different Barriers to Internet Use: Urban Residents and Neighborhood Effects

Karen Mossberger, Caroline J. Tolbert, Daniel Bowen, Benedict Jimenez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


While current federal programs for broadband have invested heavily in rural infrastructure, significant disparities in Internet use remain in urban areas, where broadband networks are available. The success of the national broadband plan and federal policy require understanding barriers to Internet adoption, including persistent inequalities in urban areas. Analysis of a random sample telephone survey in the city of Chicago merged with census tract-level data finds that neighborhood-level factors such as segregation and concentrated poverty influence the reasons why residents do not have home Internet access, as well as individual-level factors. Interactions demonstrate differential effects of age across racial and ethnic groups, and the amplification of disparities in access in segregated neighborhoods, especially for Latinos in gateway immigrant neighborhoods. Place effects need to be taken into account in further research and theory on technology inequality, and in public policy as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)771-810
Number of pages40
JournalUrban Affairs Review
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • broadband
  • digital divide
  • neighborhood effects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies


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