Latinos comprise 14% of the U.S. adult population and about half of this growing group (56%) goes online. By comparison, 71% of non-Hispanic whites and 60% of non-Hispanic blacks use the internet. Several socio-economic characteristics that are often intertwined, such as low levels of education and limited English ability, largely explain the gap in internet use between Hispanics and non-Hispanics.
These are some of the key findings in a new report issued by the Pew Hispanic Center and the Pew Internet Project titled "Latinos Online":
- 78% of Latinos who are English-dominant and 76% of bilingual Latinos use the internet, compared with 32% of Spanish-dominant Hispanic adults.
- 76% of U.S.-born Latinos go online, compared with 43% of those born outside the U.S. Some of this is related to language, but analysis shows that being born outside of the 50 states is an independent factor that is associated with a decreased likelihood of going online.
- 89% of Latinos who have a college degree, 70% of Latinos who completed high school, and 31% of Latinos who did not complete high school go online.
Mexicans are the largest national origin group in the U.S. Latino population and are among the least likely groups to go online: 52% of Latinos of Mexican descent uses the internet. Even when age, income, language, generation, or nativity is held constant, being Mexican is associated with a decreased likelihood of going online.
The report, written by Susannah Fox and Gretchen Livingston, is based on telephone surveys of 6,016 Latino adults, aged 18 and older, conducted in Spanish and English from June to October, 2006.
"For many people living in the U.S., the internet is the go-to source for information and for staying in touch with friends and family," said Fox, an associate director at the Pew Internet Project. "But we find that significant portions of the population are cut off from online resources. Only about one-third of Hispanics who have not completed high school and one-third of Latinos who do not speak and read English go online."
"The balance among Latinos could swing within a few generations," said Livingston, a research associate at the Pew Hispanic Center. "The sons and daughters of immigrants are flocking online - eight out of ten second-generation Latinos have access to the internet."
Some Latinos who do not use the internet are connecting to the communications revolution in a different way - via cell phone. Fully 59% of Latino adults have a cell phone and 49% of Latino cell phone users send and receive text messages on their phone. Looking at the numbers in a different way, 56% of Latino adults go online, 18% of Latino adults have a cell phone but do not go online, and 26% of Latino adults have neither a cell phone nor an internet connection.