Digital Distress: What is it and who does it affect?

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Digital distress areas have a harder time using and leveraging the internet to improve their quality of life due to the type of internet subscription or devices owned. Digital distress is defined here as census tracts (neighborhoods) that had a 1) high percentage of homes not subscribing to the internet or subscribing only through a cellular data plan and a 2) high percent of homes with no computing devices or relying only on mobile devices. Using 2013–2017 US Census Bureau American Community Survey for the nation’s 72,400+ Census tracts, we identified four indicators to measure digital distress based on the percentage of homes:

  1. With only a cellular-data subscription
  2. With no internet access (not subscribing)
  3. Relying only on mobile devices
  4. Not owning a computing device

[Roberto Gallardo is a Community-Regional Economics Specialist in the College of Agriculture Administration at Purdue University. Cheyanne Geideman is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator for the Purdue Center for Regional Development.]

Digital Distress: What is it and who does it affect? Part 1.