July 20, 2016

Digital Divide Narrows for Latinos as More Spanish Speakers and Immigrants Go Online

1. Internet use among Hispanics

In 2015, wide gaps in internet use existed by demographic group among Hispanics, just as there are among all Americans. But in recent years, some of the largest gains in internet use have been among immigrant Hispanics and those who are Spanish dominant. As a result, internet use among Hispanic adults continues to grow, though at a slowing rate, as the internet use rate approaches 90% for Americans overall.

Among Latinos, who goes online?

One of the sharpest divides in internet access among Hispanics is by age. Internet use is over 90% among Hispanics younger than 50, but it drops to 67% among those ages 50 to 64 and only 42% among those ages 65 and older.

There are other differences in internet use among Hispanic demographic subgroups. For example, those with more education and those with higher household incomes are also more likely to report using the internet. Two-thirds (67%) of Hispanics who have less than a high school education were online in 2015, compared with 95% of those with at least some college experience.

On a similar note, 79% of Hispanics who had an annual family income of less than $30,000 use the internet, while nearly all (97%) of those who make $50,000 or more do.

U.S.-born Latinos are somewhat more likely than foreign-born Latinos to report using the internet (91% vs. 78%), but among U.S.-born Latinos, there is no significant difference between second- or third-generation or higher Latinos when looking only at the U.S. born.

Those who speak primarily English are more likely to be online (94%), compared with those who are bilingual (86%) or who speak primarily Spanish (74%).

There is no significant difference between Hispanic men and Hispanic women on the share who use the internet.

Similar demographic patterns emerge when looking at all adults, though the differences are less pronounced since a larger share of older and less-educated U.S. adults use the internet.

Rise in internet use has slowed among Hispanics, stalled among blacks and whites

While growth in the rate of internet use among the major racial groups in the U.S. has slowed, it continues to rise among Hispanics. Between 2012 and 2015, internet use among Hispanic adults rose from 78% to 84%. Meanwhile, there was no statistically significant change in the share of white and black adults who report they use the internet. 3

Just about all of the change in Hispanics’ internet since 2012 took place among the foreign born. While internet use among the U.S. born was steady from 2012 to 2015, the share of foreign-born Hispanics who say they use the internet increased from 69% to 78% over this period.

Similarly, those who are Spanish dominant saw the greatest increase in internet use, rising from 63% in 2012 to 74% in 2015 – an 11-percentage-point increase. By contrast, internet use rose slightly among English-dominant Hispanics and stayed about the same for bilingual Hispanics.

  1. See Methodology section for details on how the Pew Research Center’s measure of internet use has changed over time.