Gender Differences in Information Technology Usage: A U.S.-Japan Comparison

Hiroshi Ono and Madeline Zavodny
Working Paper 2004-2
January 2004

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This study examines whether there are differences in men’s and women’s use of computers and the Internet in the United States and Japan and how any such gender gaps have changed over time. The authors focus on these two countries because information technology is widely used in both, but there are substantial differences in institutions and social organizations. They use microdata from several surveys during the 1997–2001 period to examine differences and trends in computer and Internet usage in the two countries. Their results indicate that there were significant gender differences in computer and Internet usage in both countries during the mid-1990s. By 2001, these gender differences had disappeared or were even reversed in the United States but remained in Japan. People not currently working have lower levels of IT use and skills in both countries regardless of gender, but working women in Japan have lower levels of IT use and skills than working men, a difference that generally does not occur in the United States. This finding suggests that employment status per se does not play a large role in the gender gap in Japan, but type of employment does. The prevalence of nonstandard employment among female workers in Japan accounts for much of the gender gap in IT use and skills in that country.

JEL classification: O33, L86, J16

Key words: computers, Internet, gender, nonstandard employment

The authors gratefully acknowledge Junichiro Miyabe and Juro Toda for assistance with the Nomura Research Institute data set. Ono gratefully acknowledges financial support from the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research (Forskningsrädet för Arbetsliv och Socialvetenskap). The views expressed here are the authors’ and not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta or the Federal Reserve System. Any remaining errors are the authors’ responsibility.

Please address questions regarding content to Hiroshi Ono, Stockholm School of Economics, or Madeline Zavodny, Research Department, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, 1000 Peachtree Street, N.E., Atlanta, Georgia 30309-4470, 404-498-8977,