March 7, 2013

Closing the Digital Divide: Latinos and Technology Adoption

Overview

2013-03_Latinos-Technology-01Latinos own smartphones, go online from a mobile device and use social networking sites at similar—and sometimes higher—rates than do other groups of Americans, according to a new analysis of three surveys by the Pew Research Center.

The analysis also finds that when it comes to using the internet,1 the digital divide between Latinos and whites is smaller than what it had been just a few years ago. Between 2009 and 2012, the share of Latino adults who say they go online at least occasionally increased 14 percentage points, rising from 64% to 78%.2 Among whites, internet use rates also increased, but only by half as much—from 80% in 2009 to 87% in 2012.

Over the same period, the gap in cellphone ownership between Latinos and other groups either diminished or disappeared. In 2012, 86% of Latinos said they owned a cellphone, up from 76% in 2009.

Among the biggest drivers of these increases are spikes in technology adoption among foreign-born Latinos and Spanish-dominant Latinos, the surveys found. Both groups’ rates of going online and cellphone ownership increased sharply since 2009, helping to reduce the digital divide between Latinos and whites—and also reducing gaps within the Latino community itself.

Technology Adoption and Going Online

2013-03_Latinos-Technology-02When it comes to owning a smartphone, going online from a mobile device and using social networking sites, Latinos are just as connected as other Americans. According to the Pew Research analysis:

2013-03_Latinos-Technology-03While Latinos use mobile and social networking technologies at rates similar to those of other groups, they lag whites when it comes to owning a desktop or laptop computer or accessing the internet (with or without a mobile device). According to the Pew Research analysis:

2013-03_Latinos-Technology-04

Demographics and Patterns of Adoption

Among Latinos, among whites and among blacks, three key demographic characteristics are correlated with technology adoption. Young people ages 18 to 29 have higher adoption rates than those ages 65 and older. Levels of educational attainment are also linked to adoption rates–those with some college experience have higher technology adoption rates than those with less than a high school diploma. And annual family income is correlated with technology adoption–those with higher incomes also have higher adoption rates than those with lower incomes.

For example, smartphone ownership is correlated with age among Latinos and among whites.4 Among Latinos, 66% of those ages 18 to 29 say they own a smartphone while just 14% of those ages 65 and older say the same. Among whites, two-third (66%) of young people ages 18 to 29 own a smartphone while 17% of those ages 65 and older say they own one.5

This report is based on three Pew Research Center surveys. The first survey is the Pew Hispanic Center’s 2012 National Survey of Latinos (NSL). The 2012 NSL is a nationally representative bilingual telephone survey of 1,765 Latino adults with a margin of error of 3.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The survey was fielded from Sept. 7 to Oct. 4, 2012. For a full description of the 2012 NSL’s survey methodology, see Appendix B.

The second survey is the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press’ nationally representative Biennial Media Consumption Survey (2012b) of 3,003 adults conducted between May 9 and June 3, 2012. The margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 2.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence interval. The third survey is the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project 2012 Health Tracking Survey (Fox and Duggan, 2013). It is a nationally representative sample of 3,014 adults with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points at the 95% confidence interval.

Other key findings include:

Going Online

Going Online through a Mobile Device

Cellphone Ownership

Smartphone Ownership

Computer Ownership

Using Social Networking Sites

Among native-born Latinos who use social networking sites, 86% do so mostly or only in English. By contrast, among immigrant Latinos who use social networking sites, more than half (55%) do so mostly or only in Spanish.

About this Report

This report explores social media, digital technology and mobile technology use among Latinos, whites and blacks in 2012. The data used in this report are derived primarily from the Pew Hispanic Center’s 2012 National Survey of Latinos (NSL), which was conducted from Sept. 7 through Oct. 4, 2012, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia among a randomly selected, nationally representative sample of 1,765 Latino adults. The survey was conducted in both English and Spanish on cellular as well as landline telephones. The margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 3.2 percentage points. Interviews were conducted for the Pew Hispanic Center by Social Science Research Solutions (SSRS).

The report also utilizes data from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press’ Biennial Media Consumption Survey (2012b), which was conducted between May 9 and June 3, 2012, among a nationally representative sample of 3,003 adults, including 2,202 whites and 281 blacks. It also utilizes data from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project’s Health Tracking Survey (Fox and Duggan, 2013), which was conducted between Aug. 7 and Sept. 6, 2012, among a nationally representative sample of 3,014 adults, including 1,864 whites and 497 blacks.

This report was written by Associate Director Mark Hugo Lopez, Research Associate Ana Gonzalez-Barrera and Research Assistant Eileen Patten. Paul Taylor, Scott Keeter, Leah Christian, Michael Dimock, Gretchen Livingston, Lee Rainie and Aaron Smith provided editorial guidance. The author thanks Taylor, Keeter, Christian, Livingston, Patten, Rakesh Kochhar, Rich Morin, Seth Motel, Kim Parker and Antonio Rodriguez for guidance on the development of the survey instrument. Motel also provided research assistance. Livingston and Patten number-checked the report. Molly Rohal was the copy editor.

A Note on Terminology

The terms “Latino” and “Hispanic” are used interchangeably in this report.

The terms “whites” and “blacks” are used to refer to the non-Hispanic components of their populations.

“Native born” or “U.S. born” refers to persons born in the United States and those born in other countries to parents at least one of whom was a U.S. citizen.

“Foreign born” refers to persons born outside of the United States to parents neither of whom was a U.S. citizen. Foreign born also refers to those born in Puerto Rico. Although individuals born in Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens by birth, they are included among the foreign born because they are born into a Spanish-dominant culture and because on many points their attitudes, views and beliefs are much closer to Hispanics born abroad than to Hispanics born in the 50 states or the District of Columbia.

Language dominance is a composite measure based on self-described assessments of speaking and reading abilities. “Spanish-dominant” persons are more proficient in Spanish than in English, i.e., they speak and read Spanish “very well” or “pretty well” but rate their ability to speak and read English lower. “Bilingual” refers to persons who are proficient in both English and Spanish. “English-dominant” persons are more proficient in English than in Spanish.

Cite this publication: Mark Hugo Lopez, Ana Gonzalez-Barrera and Eileen Patten. “Closing the Digital Divide: Latinos and Technology Adoption.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (March 7, 2013) http://www.pewhispanic.org/2013/03/07/closing-the-digital-divide-latinos-and-technology-adoption/, accessed on July 22, 2014.

  1. Internet users are those who say they use the internet at least occasionally or say they send or receive email at least occasionally.
  2. The Pew Research Hispanic Center has been collecting data regarding ethnic differences in technology use since 2006. See Fox and Livingston (2007); Livingston, Parker and Fox (2009); Livingston (2010); Livingston and Lopez (2010) and Livingston (2011). Data collected prior to 2009 are not directly comparable to results shown here because they are based on a different survey methodology.
  3. Overall, Latinos are less likely to be online than their white counterparts. Nonetheless, Latinos are still more likely than whites to access the internet from a mobile device. According to the Pew Hispanic survey, among all Latino adults, 59% say they access the internet from a mobile device. By contrast, according to the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Biennial Media Consumption Survey, a smaller share of white adults—53%—say they access the internet from a mobile device. Among black adults, 58% say they go online from a mobile device, a share similar to that of Latinos.
  4. The sample size for blacks is too small to show smartphone ownership rates by age groups.
  5. See Appendix A for detailed demographic tables showing technology adoption rates by race and ethnicity.