July 20, 2016

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

3. Hispanics and mobile access to the internet

Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets have made accessing the internet easier in recent years – although those who rely heavily on these devices for online access can face challenges accessing certain online services and information. And among Hispanic internet users, the new survey shows a greater share today use these mobile devices to go online than in 2012.

Mobile-device internet access among Latino subgroups

Overall, 80% of Latino adults say they access the internet via a mobile device such as a cellphone or tablet at least occasionally. This high share, however, belies large differences among Latino demographic subgroups.

For example, while nearly all 18- to 29-year-old Latinos (94%) and 30- to 49-year-old Latinos (89%) use the internet on a mobile device, 58% of Latinos ages 50 to 64 and less than half of those ages 65 and older (35%) do so.

The likelihood of using mobile internet increases with more education and with a higher family income. While about six-in-ten Hispanic adults with less than a high school education (63%) say they use the internet on a mobile device, about nine-in-ten with at least some college experience (91%) say the same. A similar pattern exists for family income, ranging from 77% among those with a family income of less than $30,000 in 2014 up to 94% among those in families earning $50,000 or more.

Smaller differences exist by language dominance and nativity. Fully 86% of English-dominant and 83% of bilingual Hispanic adults use mobile internet, a somewhat higher share than that among Spanish-dominant Hispanic adults (71%). Also, the U.S. born (86%) are more likely than the foreign born (75%) to use mobile internet.

Growing share of online adults now access the internet with a mobile device

Most online Americans also say they use a mobile device (like a cellphone or tablet computer) to access the internet. 5 But this share is higher among Hispanic (94%) and black (94%) internet users than among white internet users (85%).

Mobile internet use is on the rise in the U.S. overall and may even be supplanting home broadband subscriptions. The share of internet users who access the internet on a mobile device rose between 2012 and 2015 among all major racial/ethnic groups in the U.S. The share of Hispanic internet users who access the internet on a mobile device has risen from 76% to 94%. The change among black internet users has been similar, rising from 73% to 94%, while the share of white internet users who access the internet on a mobile device also grew (from 60% to 85%) but still remains lower.

This may help explain why Hispanics and blacks lag whites in broadband subscription rates. Only 10% of white smartphone owners are considered “smartphone dependent,” meaning that they do not have broadband internet access at home but do use a mobile device to access the internet. Hispanic and black smartphone owners, however, are twice as likely to be smartphone dependent – 23% of Hispanics and 19% of blacks fall into this group. 6

  1. In the 2012 National Survey of Latinos, the question about mobile internet use was only asked of those who answered yes to either “Do you use the internet, at least occasionally?” or “Do you send or receive email, at least occasionally?” In 2015, the mobile internet use question was asked of all respondents. In this section, to keep with the 2012 trend, we report the share that uses mobile internet among those who say they use the internet or email for both years.
  2. Data on smartphone dependence come from a Pew Research Center survey conducted June 10-July 12, 2015.