Latino Population Slow to Adopt Web

Lower percentages of the Latino population in the U.S. go online than other demographic segments. According to “Latinos Online,” a report from Pew Internet & American Life Project, online adoption rates are affected by generational and education level.

Latinos account for 14 percent of the adult U.S. population. While 56 percent of this group go online, 71 percent of non-Hispanic whites, and 60 percent of non-Hispanic blacks use the Web. Of the Hispanic segment who do go online, 78 percent are English-dominant; 76 percent are bilingual, and 32 percent are Spanish-dominant.

“There is a question of English proficiency. Many service providers conduct business in English, so just getting started online and the language of computers is English,” said Susannah Fox, associate director at Pew Internet & American Life Project.

While 56 percent of the Latino population uses the Internet, the offline segment tends to be comprised of foreign-born U.S. residents. Only 43 percent of this group access the Internet. The sons and daughters of foreign-born residents, or first-generation Latinos, have a higher rate of Internet usage (76 percent). Eighty percent of second-generation Latinos and 71 percent of the third-generation segment goes online.

Education levels result in similar statistics among racial groups: Thirty-two percent of whites; 31 percent of Hispanics; and 25 percent of African Americans who have not completed high school access the Internet. While the percentage of Internet access among the group appears even, 41 percent of Latino adults haven’t finished high school, compared to one in 10 non-Hispanic whites, and one in five African Americans. Immigrants are less likely to have graduated from high school, observes Fox.

Mobile usage will possibly surpass Internet access among the Latino population. Fifty-nine percent of Latino adults have a cell phone, and 49 percent of these users use text messaging. Pew Internet included questions about mobile phone usage to learn how immigrant demonstrations were organized using text messaging last spring and summer, according to Fox.

“This might be a population that is able to communicate and mobilize using text messaging rather than MySpace, which is what we’re seeing in the youth movement,” said Fox.

“Many [Latinos] are cell phone-only households, so if they don’t have a landline, they are less likely to get a landline to have Internet access,” said Fox.

A recent study shows mobile Internet adoption is heavy in Third World countries. “Latinos Online” finds 49 percent of cell phone users in the group use text messaging, but it didn’t look at broader mobile data usage.

Broadband is another area where the U.S. Latino population lags behind other groups. Twenty-nine percent of Latino adults have a broadband connection at home, compared to 43 percent of the white adult segment.

Pew Internet used data from two surveys. The 2006National Survey of Latinos (NSL), and the 2006 Hispanic Religion Survey, both were conducted by International Communications Research (ICR) in the summer and fall of last year. The sample size consists of 4,016 Latino adults. Surveys were conducted by phone, and respondents were able to participate in Spanish, English, or a combination of the two languages.

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