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The knowledge gap hypothesis proposes that as levels of information increase in a community or a society, people with lower socioeconomic status (SES) get that information at a slower rate than people with higher SES, so disparity between ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ tends to increase, rather than decrease (Tichenor et al. 1970).
The gap is studied at one time or over time and on the levels of individuals or collectivities (Gaziano & Gaziano 2009; → Political Knowledge; Health Campaigns, Communication in; Media Use by Social Variable). The most frequent indicator of SES studied is formal education. ‘Knowledge’ means information acquired through learning processes. ‘Gap’ means the relation between SES and knowledge. Types of information transmission, such as media use, people’s attention to information sources, or publicity circulating in collectivities, should vary because the prediction concerns differing levels of information diffusion.
Reasons for decreased differentials have included high conflict associated with issues; high media coverage; high discussion about topics; relatively smaller and homogeneous communities, as opposed to larger, heterogeneous communities; basic concern of issues to all; and forgetting occurring over time among all groups (→ Memory). Sometimes knowledge gaps narrow or close (see, e.g., Hwang & Jeong 2009).
See also: Communication Inequalities Diffusion of Information ...