WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Credit unions deploying Spanish-language options in their telephone and online service channels know well that Latinos are the fastest-growing ethnic group in America. But that group's use of the Internet is not necessarily keeping pace, primarily for reasons of relatively low levels of education and limited English, according to a new national study.
The Pew Internet & American Life Project and the Pew Hispanic Center surveyed 6,016 Latino adults ending last October and released a report on the project in mid-March.
The researchers found that while Latinos comprise 14% of the U.S. population, only 56% of this growing group goes online, compared with 71% of non-Hispanic whites and 60% of non-Hispanic blacks.
Meanwhile, Mexicans are by far the largest group of Latinos by national origin in the United States (64%) and they are the least likely to be online, with only 52% reporting use of the Internet.
"For many people living in the U.S., the Internet is the go-to source for information and for staying in touch with friends and family," said Susannah Fox, an associate director at the Pew Internet Project (www.pewresearch.org). "But we find that significant portions of the population are cut off from online resources. Only about one-third of Hispanics who have not completed high school and one-third who do not speak and read English go online."
But those numbers can be expected to change.
"The balance among Latinos could swing within a few generations," said Gretchen Livingston, a research associate at the Pew Hispanic Center (www.pewhispanic.org). "The sons and daughters of immigrants are flocking online. Eight out of 10 second-generation Latinos have access to the Internet." The study found that only one in three Latinos in the United States who speak only Spanish go online and that Internet use is uniformly low for whites (32%), Hispanics (31%) and blacks (25%) who have not finished high school.
The highest percentage of an ethnic group online based on education was 93% for black college graduates, while overall about 90% of American adults with a college education use the Internet. Income also was an indicator of likelihood of Internet usage.
The study also found that broadband connections are only in the homes of 29% of Latino adults, compared with 43% of white adults. The researchers attributed that to the fact that Latino Internet users are less likely than non-Hispanic white Internet users to have any type of Internet connection at home (79% to 92%.)
However, 59% of all Latino adults in the United States have a cell phone and 49% of those users use text messaging.
"Looking at the numbers a different way, 56% of Latino adults go online, 18% of Latino adults have a cell phone but do not go online, and 26% of Latino adults have neither a cell phone nor an Internet connection," the Pew report says.
The Pew Hispanic Center and the Pew Internet & American Life Project are funded by the Pew Charitable Trust through the nonprofit Pew Research Center. Neither takes positions nor advocates on public policy. The Internet project examines the social impact of the Internet while the Pew Hispanic Center focuses on improving understanding of the U.S. Hispanic population and chronicling the growing impact of Latinos on the entire nation. --firstname.lastname@example.org