Latinos Closing Digital Divide, Poll Shows

PHOTO: A new study shows Latinos outpaced caucasians in cell phone ownership.

A new study out today shows Latinos are closing the digital divide -- and cell phones are the device of choice.

The report released today by the Pew Hispanic Research Center found that, in just three years, the gap between whites' and Latinos' use of Internet closed by half.

In 2009, only 64 percent of Hispanics used the Internet, compared to 72 percent of blacks and 80 percent of whites. In 2012 Hispanics matched blacks in usage at 78 percent, while whites slightly increased to 87 percent.

"These are trends we've been following for awhile," said Mark Lopez, associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center. "Some of the biggest gains that were made, particularly in Internet use, among Latinos were among foreign-born and among Spanish-dominant Latinos who had very low usage rates just a few years ago."

Most Latino Internet users depend on their mobile devices, rather than desktops and laptops, when accessing the Internet -- 76 percent, versus 60 percent of whites.

Hispanics and blacks outpaced whites in cell phone ownership at 86 percent, 90 percent and 78 percent, respectively.

It is a trend that could be, in part, because of Pew's findings that Latinos lag whites when it comes to desktop and laptop ownership (72 percent Hispanics vs. 83 percent whites) and nearly half (47 percent) of Latino adults live in cell-phone-only households. Comparatively, 38 percent of blacks and 30 percent of whites don't have a landline, a trend that has grown significantly since 2004 when only 6 percent of Hispanics, 4 percent of blacks and 4 percent of whites did not have one.

While Spanish-dominant and foreign-born Latinos have helped close the gap in Internet use, when it comes to social media, most (60 percent) who are tweeting and Facebooking are doing it in English, and at rates similar to other groups.

"It is interesting that, when it comes to social media, English is the dominant language," Lopez said.

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