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Is there a Race Divide in US Internet use?

We often hear about the digital divide – the knowledge and benefit gap that exists between different countries and between different groups in society. There are always the advantaged and the disadvantaged. But the Pew Research Centre in the US has now started to look closely at various demographic groups with the US, to see if there are clear problems with the use and adoption of the Internet and mobile services.

For its first report, the centre looked at African Americans and surveyed 6,010 American adults. On the face of it, there isn’t a big problem. Whilst the “black/white digital divide” continues to persist, it is not consistent across technology platforms or demographic groups.

The survey found that African Americans trail whites by seven percentage points when it comes to overall internet use (80 per cent versus 87 per cent), and by twelve percentage points when it comes to home broadband adoption (62 per cent versus 74 per cent).

However, young, college-educated, and higher-income African Americans are just as likely as their white counterparts to use the internet and to have broadband service at home. 86 per cent of African Americans aged 18-29 are home broadband adopters, as are 91 per cent of African Americans with an annual household income of $75,000 or more per year. These figures are all well above the national average for broadband adoption, and are identical to whites of similar ages, incomes, and education levels.

The two groups are also on more equal footing when it comes to other types of access, especially on mobile platforms.

Overall, 73 per cent of African American internet users – and 96 per cent of those aged 18-29 – use a social networking site of some kind. 92 per cent of African Americans own a mobile phone, and 56 per cent own a smartphone. African Americans have high levels of Twitter use, with 22 per cent of African American internet users also Twitter users, against just 16 per cent of whites.

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