February 9, 2011

Latinos and Digital Technology, 2010

V. Cell Phone Ownership

In 2010, some three-fourths (76%) of Hispanic adults were using cell phones—a rate similar to the rate for blacks (79%), and markedly lower than the rate among whites (85%). Controlling for education or household income eliminates the ethnic gap in cell phone use, suggesting that ethnic differences in educational attainment and income contribute to the overall difference in cell phone use.

Foreign-born Latinos lag behind native-born Latinos in cell phone use. While seven-in-ten (70%) of the foreign born use cell phones, this share is 86% for the native born. This gap is fueled in part by a significant increase of six percentage points in cell phone use among the native born since 2009. That increase among the native born, in turn, is driven primarily by increasing cell use among the second generation. In 2010, 88% of second-generation Latinos had cell phones, compared with 79% in 2009.

Spanish-dominant Hispanics lag behind in cell phone ownership. Less than seven-in-ten (68%) have a cell phone. In comparison, 78% of bilingual Hispanics and 86% of English-dominant Hispanics own a cell phone.

The young are far more likely than their older counterparts to have cell phones, with Latinos over 60 being especially unlikely to report using the technology. Nine-in-ten (90%) Latinos ages 18 to 29 used cell phones in 2010—a jump of nine percentage points from 2009. In comparison, 80% of those ages 30 to 44, 73% of those ages 45 to 59, and half of Latinos ages 60 and older report using a cell phone.

Educational attainment is strongly associated with cell phone use. While two-thirds (66%) of Hispanics with less than a high school diploma have a cell phone, this share rose to 78% for those who have a high school diploma. Among Hispanics who have at least some college education, the share with a cell phone further rose to 89%.

Latinos with higher household incomes were more likely than their less affluent counterparts to own a cell phone in 2010. Three-fourths with household incomes below $30,000 own a cell phone. Among Latinos with household incomes of $30,000 to $49,999, 84% own cell phones, and almost all Latinos living in a household with an income of at least $50,000 own a cell phone (96%).

Cell phone users are least prevalent in the suburbs. Some 57% of Hispanic suburbanites own cell phones, compared with 79% in urban areas and 76% in rural areas.