Hispanics Now Closing the Digital Divide
Life + Money

Hispanics Now Closing the Digital Divide

REUTERS/Jorge Silva

A new analysis of three Pew Research Center surveys shows that Hispanic Americans own smartphones, go online from mobile devices and use social networking sites at similar, and sometimes even higher, rates than groups of other Americans.

The analysis, out Thursday afternoon, shows that the digital divide between Latinos and whites in this country is rapidly tightening compared to just a few short years ago.

“Between 2009 and 2012, the share of Latino adults who say they go online at least occasionally increased from 64 percent to 78 percent,” according to Pew. “Among whites, Internet use rates also increased, but only by half as much (80 percent in 2009 to 87 percent in 2012).”
Over that same period, the gap in cellphone ownership between Latinos and other groups either lessened or disappeared. In 2012, 86 percent of Latinos said they owned a cellphone, up from 76 percent in 2009. (Pew uses the terms Hispanic and Latino interchangeably.)

There are approximately 53 million Hispanics in this country right now – comprising 17 percent of the U.S. population. The Pew analysis did not address the specific reasons for the closing of the digital divide or what it means more broadly. 

But the analysis did find that one of the main drivers of the increase is a rise in technology adoption among foreign-born Latinos as well as Spanish-dominant Latinos. “Both groups’ rates of going online and of owning cellphones increased sharply since 2009, helping to reduce the digital divide between Latinos and whites and also reducing gaps within the Latino community itself,” the analysis said.
Based on three national Pew Research Center surveys of more than 7,500 adults that were conducted between May and October of 2012, the analysis also included these findings:
Cellphone Ownership: 86 percent of Hispanics say they own a cellphone (compared to whites at 84 percent and blacks at 90 percent).
Smartphone Ownership: Among adults, Latinos (49 percent) are just as likely as whites (46 percent) or blacks (50 percent) to own a smartphone.
Going Online from a Mobile Device:  Latino Internet users are more likely than whites to say they go online through a mobile device (76 percent versus 60 percent). Black internet users are equally as likely as Latinos to access the Internet from a mobile device.
Social Networking: Among internet users, similar shares of Latinos (68 percent), whites (66 percent) and blacks (69 percent) say they use social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook at least occasionally. Among Latinos who do use social networking sites, 60 percent say they do so mostly or only in English – while 29 percent say they do so mostly or only in Spanish. Some 11 percent say they use the two languages equally.
To read the full report, “Closing the Digital Divide: Latinos and Technology Adoption” from Pew, click here.