Hispanics use the internet the least of any ethnic group, according to research from eMarketer.
The study found that 79.8 percent of Hispanics use the internet at least monthly from any device-cellphones, tablets, desktops, etc. That’s compared to 84.3 percent of whites, 83.6 percent of Asians, and 82.5 percent of blacks. The report also predicts the gap will continue to shrink, but Hispanics still won’t reach the same usage levels any time soon: By 2021, it anticipates that 82.6 percent of Hispanics and 86.2 of whites will use the internet monthly.
These numbers are pretty similar to a 2016 report from Pew, which put the rate of Latinos using the internet at 84 percent. But in that survey, black Americans were the group that use it the least, with only 81 percent usage. (The Pew survey referred to its survey participants as Latinos, while the eMarketer survey used the term Hispanics. While many Latinos are Spanish-speaking, and the populations are similar, these terms are not interchangeable.)
According to Pew, a large part of the difference in usage comes from disparities in education and English proficiency levels.
Like any other segment of the population, there is a generational divide when it comes to how Hispanics use and think about the internet. A separate survey conducted by Simmons Research showed varying feelings among Hispanics of different age groups about watching television vs. playing online. For young Hispanic age 18-34, 43.5 percent said they watch less TV on television sets because of the internet, compared with 29.2 among the 35-49 group and 16.7 with those over 50. This probably has something to do with the fact that way fewer Latinos 50 to 64 use the internet (just 67 percent) while their younger counterparts use it at a rate of 90 percent, according to another section from the Pew Research Center study released in 2016.
However, Latinos have had high rates of usage when it comes to other technologies. According to the same Pew 2016 report, Latinos are very likely to “own a smartphone, to live in a household without a landline phone where only a cellphone is available and to access the internet from a mobile device.”
While the percentage of Hispanics who use the internet has continued to rise steadily, adoption rates have risen slower for whites. Between 2009 and 2015, the rate among Latinos rose about 20 percentage points, while for whites it only rose about 8 percentage points.
This digital divide is important because differences between internet usage can very easily translate to disparities in everyday life. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center, which has a series about how low-income families access Federal Communications Commission programs, says, “internet service and digital technologies are critical for accessing a broad range of resources and opportunities.”
In a 2015 report titled “Aprendiendo en casa,” the center examined media as a resource for learning among Hispanic-Latino families. It found that parents believe children develop academic skills from using educational media, but they still want to know more about the media their kids can use.
The report profiled a young girl named Alicia, a 9-year-old of Ecuadorian descent whose name has been changed for privacy reason, who watches YouTube videos both to help her with her math homework and as a resource to teach her how to make dresses and accessories for her dolls. Her mother plays an active role in both these activities. The lesson here? An increase in technological resources can also help bridge the gap between generations.
By Angelica Cabral
Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University.