By Kim Hart - 04/12/10 06:07 PM EDT
The U.S. Internet population is diversifying, according to new data from market research firm eMarketer.
The racial and ethnic characteristics of Web users are starting to more closely mirror the offline population--a big shift for the online world that has been dominated by white, affluent users.
"In five years, Internet users will be older, and many will have lower levels of education and annual income," said eMarketer senior analyst Lisa Phillips.
Growth is still occurring among all races and ethnicities of Internet users. eMarketer estimates the Internet population will increase 13.4% between 2010 and 2014, compared with 3.9% for the general population. Despite their already high Internet use, non-Hispanic whites and Asians will see further penetration by 2014, to 81.2% and 81%, respectively. Blacks and Hispanics, while still underrepresented online, will see steady growth in penetration rates, to 72.3% of the black population and 70% of Hispanics.
Overall, eMarketer predicts that 221 million people in the U.S. will be online--about 71 percent of the total population--in 2010. By 2014, that number will reach 250 million--more than 77 percent.