Digital Citizenship

Digital Citizenship

The Internet, Society, and Participation

By Karen Mossberger, Caroline J. Tolbert and Ramona S. McNeal

This analysis of how the ability to participate in society online affects political and economic opportunity finds that technology use matters in wages and income and civic participation and voting.





This analysis of how the ability to participate in society online affects political and economic opportunity finds that technology use matters in wages and income and civic participation and voting.

Just as education has promoted democracy and economic growth, the Internet has the potential to benefit society as a whole. Digital citizenship, or the ability to participate in society online, promotes social inclusion. But statistics show that significant segments of the population are still excluded from digital citizenship. The authors of this book define digital citizens as those who are online daily. By focusing on frequent use, they reconceptualize debates about the digital divide to include both the means and the skills to participate online. They offer new evidence (drawn from recent national opinion surveys and Current Population Surveys) that technology use matters for wages and income, and for civic engagement and voting. Digital Citizenship examines three aspects of participation in society online: economic opportunity, democratic participation, and inclusion in prevailing forms of communication. The authors find that Internet use at work increases wages, with less-educated and minority workers receiving the greatest benefit, and that Internet use is significantly related to political participation, especially among the young. The authors examine in detail the gaps in technological access among minorities and the poor and predict that this digital inequality is not likely to disappear in the near future. Public policy, they argue, must address educational and technological disparities if we are to achieve full participation and citizenship in the twenty-first century.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262134859 240 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 1 figure; 18 tables; 17 box illus.


$25.00 X ISBN: 9780262633536 240 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 1 figure; 18 tables; 17 box illus.


  • The digital divide affects the politics and economics of information societies throughout the globe. In this wide-ranging and carefully analyzed study, Mossberger, Tolbert and McNeal illuminate the fine-grained texture of digital access, digital skill and literacy, and, ultimately, digital citizenship. Detailed analyses of national opinion survey data and other large-scale datasets illuminate not only attitudes toward the Internet and patterns of use, but more importantly, the effects of use patterns—classified by age, race, ethnicity, income and education—for economic opportunity and civic participation. The results provide convincing concrete and deeply troubling evidence of the costs of exclusion for those with less access and fewer digital skills in information societies. By doing so, this book makes a major contribution toward integrating the study of technological and social inequalities in the United States. It is required reading for those interested in information technology and society and, more importantly, for those interested in the current state of American society, the role of public policy in the information society, and our economic future.

    Jane Fountain

    Director, Center for Public Policy and Administration, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

  • Digital Citizenship examines the impact of the Internet on civic engagement and political participation. This book is a compelling and informative study that brings new survey evidence to bear on the power of the Internet. Through careful and detailed exploration, the authors demonstrate that the Internet brings important benefits to society and government, while those outside the digital revolution suffer from the lack of access to Internet technology.

    Darrell West

    Department of Political Science, Brown University

  • Digital Citizenship is the clearest explanation of what it means to inhabit the modern, networked world. It is an excellent assessment of the benefits and costs that accrue from Internet use in an online society. Mossberger, Tolbert and McNeal not only rekindle debates about Internet access and digital divides, but provide new insights into the very meaning of the terms. Policymakers and scholars will do well to read Digital Citizenship closely, for it can take us to a new level of debate that can enhance our understanding of the issues, and a new level of action that can enhance and broaden the public sphere.

    Steven Jones

    Department of Communication, University of Illinois, Chicago

  • This is a book of impressive scope and ambition. It provides an empirically rich, analytically sophisticated survey of the many dimensions of citizenship in the digital age. The authors marshal a wide array of evidence from multiple sources, applying it to a range of fundamental questions. This book is essential reading on the subject.

    Bruce Bimber

    Department of Political Science, and Department of Communication, University of California, Santa Barbara