Study: Blacks Online Appreciate Net's Value

Although blacks still lag in access to the Internet, a new study finds that those who are connected are more likely than whites to appreciate its value as an information tool.

Forty-five percent of black Americans with online access found the Internet useful for getting health care information, compared with 35 percent of white Net users, the Pew Internet & American Life Project found in its latest study.

The report, released Sunday, also found blacks were more likely than whites to use the Internet to find information on religion, jobs and housing.

“I’m really struck by the degree to which African-American Internet users have looked to the Internet for economic advancement and lifestyle improvement,” said Lee Rainie, the study’s director.

Blacks are also more likely to say the Internet helps them pursue hobbies, the study found. On the other hand, whites have a greater tendency to find the Internet useful for connecting with families and friends.

Opening up Access

Darien Dash, who runs a program to equip minorities with low-cost computers and free Internet access, said blacks are more likely to appreciate the Internet’s value because they have more limited access to similar resources offline.

For example, he said, many urban blacks can’t get good health care information, and their schools do not offer as many enrichment programs as those in richer areas.

The Pew survey was based on random telephone interviews with 12,751 adults from March 1 to Aug. 20. Of that group, 1,501 are black, and 586 of them use the Internet. The findings about blacks online have a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.

Last Monday, the Commerce Department issued a report showing that while more black households now have Internet access, they are still less likely than white households to be connected.

More than 23 percent of black households had access in August 2000, up from 11 percent in December 1998. But the access gap continued to widen, with whites getting connected at a faster clip. Some 46 percent of white households had access in August, up from 30 percent in 1998.

Pew reached similar conclusions about increases in blacks connected to the Internet. Almost half of all blacks online — more than 3.5 million — logged on for the first time in the past year.

Among other findings:

Black women make up 56 percent of the black online population, while white users are evenly split between men and women.

As a group, the black online population has less income and less education than whites with Internet access.

A little more than a third of blacks with access go online on a typical day, compared with some 56 percent for whites. But those numbers may reflect experience: A greater share of blacks online are newcomers, and past studies have found that newcomers in general tend to use the Internet less frequently.

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