Chapter 1 Introduction to the Handbook of Digital Inequality
Full access

For a term that barely existed two decades ago, digital inequality has certainly made its mark on academic scholarship. In its relatively short life as an academic domain of inquiry, digital inequality has amassed an immense amount of scholarly attention. According to Google Scholar, over ten thousand papers refer specifically to "digital inequality" and tens of thousands of others to variations of the "digital divide." It is not only beyond the scope of any one piece to address every aspect of such a significant body of research, it is beyond the scope of any volume to do so as well. Instead, this Handbook presents important fresh insights about significant aspects of digital inequality that are of enduring value. Digital inequality refers to how people of different backgrounds incorporate the Internet into their lives; how their digital and social contexts, their skills and their uses differ (DiMaggio & Hargittai, 2001), and how the life outcomes associated with these differences vary (Hargittai, 2008). The more common term "digital divide" refers to differences between those who are connected and those who are not, in other words, basic access differences between the information rich and poor (Hoffman & Novak, 1998). While such a divide continues to exist in most parts of the world and deserves continued attention, it is not the topic of this book. The focus of digital inequality scholarship is identifying differences among users.