February 9, 2011

Latinos and Digital Technology, 2010

I. Overview

Latinos are less likely than whites to access the internet, have a home broadband connection or own a cell phone, according to survey findings from the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center. Latinos lag behind blacks in home broadband access but have similar rates of internet and cell phone use.1

While about two-thirds of Latino (65%) and black (66%) adults went online in 2010, more than three-fourths (77%) of white adults did so. In terms of broadband use at home, there is a large gap between Latinos (45%) and whites (65%), and the rate among blacks (52%) is somewhat higher than that of Latinos. Fully 85% of whites owned a cell phone in 2010, compared with 76% of Latinos and 79% of blacks.2

Hispanics, on average, have lower levels of education and earn less than whites. Controlling for these factors, the differences in internet use, home broadband access and cell phone use between Hispanics and whites disappear. In other words, Hispanics and whites who have similar socioeconomic characteristics have similar usage patterns for these technologies.

Hispanics, on average, are also younger than whites. However, even within each age group, Hispanics show lower levels of technology use than do whites.

Survey questions also probed for the use of non-voice applications on cell phones. Respondents were asked specifically about whether they access the internet and whether they use email, texting or instant messaging from a cell phone. The findings reveal a mixed pattern of non-voice cell phone application use across ethnic and racial groups. Hispanics are less likely than whites to use any non-voice applications on a cell phone (58% vs. 64%), and they are also less likely than whites to send or receive text messages (55% vs. 61%). However, Hispanics and whites are equally likely to access the internet and send or receive email from a cell phone. And Hispanics are more likely than whites to engage in instant messaging (34% vs. 20%). Compared with blacks, Hispanics are less likely to access the internet (31% vs. 41%) or send or receive email (27% vs. 33%) from a cell phone, but rates of texting and instant messaging are similar for the two groups.

Though they are no more likely than whites to access the internet from a cell phone, Hispanics are more likely to do so in lieu of a home internet connection. Some 6% of Latinos report that they access the internet from a cell phone but have no internet access at home. This rate is the same for blacks, but notably higher than the rate for whites (1%). While controlling for educational attainment and income erases ethnic differences in internet use, broadband access and cell phone ownership, this is not entirely the case when it comes to the ethnic difference in dependency upon a cell phone for internet access. Controlling for income and education erases the differences for the highly educated and most affluent, but differences still persist for those with no college experience, and those earning less than $50,000 annually.

This report is based on two national surveys. The first, the Pew Hispanic Center’s 2010 National Survey of Latinos is a nationally representative bilingual telephone survey of 1,375 adults ages 18 and older. Interviews were conducted from August 17 through September 19, 2010. The margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The second, the Pew Internet and American Life Project’s August 2010 Health Tracking Survey is a national representative telephone survey of 3,001 adults, conducted from August 9 through September 13, 2010. The margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. For a full description of the methodology of both surveys, see Appendix A.

Other key findings include:





Education and Income

Place of Residence

  1. The Pew Hispanic Center has been collecting data regarding ethnic differences in technology use since 2006 (see Fox and Livingston 2007; Livingston, Parker and Fox 2009; and Livingston 2010). Data collected prior to 2009 are not directly comparable to results shown here because they are based on a different survey methodology.
  2. Hispanics are more likely than whites or blacks to depend exclusively on their cell phones for telephone communication. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Interview Survey, in 2010 some 35% of Hispanic adults lived in households containing no landline telephone, compared with 23% of whites and 29% of blacks (Blumberg and Luke 2010).