Alina Drufovka ’16 has been named the second-place winner in the highly competitive Alpha Kappa Delta Undergraduate Paper Competition.

Her paper, “Inequality in the Information Age: From the Digital Divide to the Usage Divide,” was selected from a very strong pool of papers, notes Alpha Kappa Delta, the International Sociology Honor Society. The society’s mission is to “investigate humanity for the purpose of service.”

“It was really important to me to do my thesis on a topic that was relevant and pertinent on a large scale. That is why I used census data instead of conducting my own survey,” says Drufovka. “When I came across research about the digital divide, which refers to the gap between those who have Internet access and those who do not, I realized there was a huge gap in the literature in terms of examining the complexities of an emerging usage divide.”

She says that most of the research in regard to a usage divide simply looks at a binary between the use of the Internet for entertainment or for information. “My research isolated three digital resources — job seeking tools, financial services, and preventative healthcare information — and ran multivariate regressions in order to examine which demographics of people use these resources.”

According to the abstract of her paper, “The findings demonstrate that access to the Internet, as well as use of Internet resources, reflect existing inequalities in society, especially in regard to race, income, and education. The results indicate that inequality in access persists in the information age, and is now being expanded to include inequities in terms of the use of digital resources.

“Alina’s thesis stands out for its ability to advance and nuance our understanding of the digital divide, going beyond continuing concerns around access to attend to varying patterns of usage,” says Associate Professor of Sociology and Department Chair Wade Roberts. “Her quantitative analysis also exhibits a degree of sophistication that is rare in undergraduate research.”

Alpha Kappa Delta noted that not only did Drufovka produce an outstanding piece of sociological writing, but also one that reflects a long and enduring track record of academic excellence upon which the paper was built.

Drufovka, of Philadelphia, served as a fellow for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in Driggs, Idaho, for the summer. One of the goals of the fellowship is to inspire more people of color to connect with the outdoors. Following the fellowship, Drufovka attended the American Sociological Association Honors Program in Seattle in late August, an opportunity is provided by the Alpha Kappa Delta competition.