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Information Inequality and Network Externalities: A Comparative Study of the Diffusion of Television and the Internet

Working Paper #31, Fall 2003

Paul DiMaggio and Joseph Cohen

ABSTRACT
This paper sheds light on whether intergroup inequality in Internet access is likely to persist as the diffusion process continues.  To what extent is a given level of inequality  in technology diffusion (e.g., use of the Internet) a long-term policy challenge or a temporary inconvenience?  What general factors account for group-specific patterns of technology adoption?  This paper draws on notions of network externalities to help answer this question.   It also presents findings from a comparative analysis of household adoption of television from 1948 to 1957 and the Internet from 1994 to 2002.

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