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Pew: Blacks, Hispanics among biggest users of wireless Web

African Americans and Hispanics continue to be among the most avid users of the Internet over their cellphones, according to a report released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center.

And low-income groups are the fastest adopters of the mobile Web, showing an opportunity that wireless technology could play in helping to bridge a digital divide that has brought the Web disproportionately to wealthier communities over the past two decades.

According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 64 percent of African Americans surveyed last May said they access the Internet over their laptop or mobile phone, an increase from 57 percent who said they did in 2009.

That compares with 59 percent of all adults surveyed last May who said they accessed the Web wirelessly through laptops or cellphones – up from 51 percent last year. Indeed, overall use of cell phones and other gadgets is up among all demographic groups -- and youth are, no surprise, big users too.

But the survey revealed more refined data than previous surveys. Poorer households see wireless devices as their gateway to the Internet, for example. By household income, 46 percent of households earning less than $30,000 a year said they used data services on a wireless devices, an 11 percentage point increase from 2009. It's still a relatively small group, but their adoption rate is faster than those earning $30,000 to $49,000 (up two percentage points), $40,000 to $74,999 (up four percentage points), and those earning more than $75,000 (up eight percentage points).

Drilling down, Hispanics were the biggest users of data applications on their cellphones and laptops. About 83 percent of Hispanics send or receive text messages, compared with 79 percent of Americans and 68 percent of whites. And 47 percent of Hispanics said they send or receive an e-mail, compared with 41 percent of blacks and 30 percent of whites surveyed. Also interesting was that 18 percent of Hispanics said they purchased a product over their mobile device compared with 13 percent of blacks and 10 percent of whites.

The findings support similar survey results by Pew last year and show the fast penetration of smart phones and other devices in minority populations.

"The mobile population is becoming more diverse over time and more people are relying on their cellphones as their primary form of wireless connectivity,” said Aaron Smith, author of the Pew report.

But public-interest advocates warn of the limits of some wireless technologies, which can’t replace the greater capacity of broadband connections into homes. And the cost of computer equipment and monthly fees for Internet cable and DSL service has been a great obstacle for lower-income homes, they said.

David Saunier of, a group that uses technology to help solve socioeconomic problems, said it is difficult to know what kinds of applications the people surveyed are using. His group focused on “public purpose” applications – on wireless and land-line devices – to help users find jobs, manage household expenses and do homework, for example.

The penetration of smart phone and other wireless technology in minority communities shows promise, he said.

“This shows the opportunity for mobile to be a crucial vehicle for delivering public purpose content and that mobile technologies in particular offer unique opportunities for those tools and applications to be delivered,” Saunier said.

By Cecilia Kang  |  July 7, 2010; 1:15 PM ET
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I really wish stories like these would stop being published. How is this news? Why to we continue to widen the racial divide with stories like these? ENOUGH WITH THE RACE-BASED CRAP! Report on AMERICANS, not races.

Posted by: KellyLeeWilliamsAK | July 7, 2010 9:06 PM | Report abuse

I really wish stories like these would stop being published. How is this news? Why to we continue to widen the racial divide with stories like these? ENOUGH WITH THE RACE-BASED CRAP! Report on AMERICANS, not races.

KellyLeeWilliamsAK | July 7, 2010 9:06 PM
I agree with you "KellLeeWillamsAK". Why do people keep fueling this racial ignorance? I'll tell you why, because it's the racists that do it. I will argue that after reviewing many polls the Hispanic community more closely relates with the "cracker", "white boy", or "caucasion, european" community than it does with the black or African-American community. However, I do believe another poll is needed. In the meantime, I'll go with my feelings and experience. Good luck all you race haters.

Posted by: ioweioweoff2workigo | July 7, 2010 9:51 PM | Report abuse

Since when has socio-economic data been racist?

Posted by: | July 8, 2010 8:43 AM | Report abuse

We are definetely a country and a society obsessed with race like no other nation in the world. How can we talk about being AMERICANS as a whole if we keep pondering on any particular matter through the lens of race or racial balkanization?.

Posted by: eaglestrk01 | July 8, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

That survey must have been pretty skewed towards suburban America on the two coasts. After just coming back from a trip where I drove thru a good swath of the Southesat, I can tell you that there is no way the 59% of ANYONE there is accessing the Internet on their wireless devices. I'd be willing to bet that at least 30% have never even gone on the In-tar-web.

Posted by: nadie1 | July 8, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

It is a poll, it would might be racist if I said the mexicans were texting each other the location of ICE. This does bring to mind a few months ago I was standing in front of a convience store and watched the guy on a bike cross the tracks at the same time a car was traveling the other way slowed down. A hand reached out the passenger rear window and something was swapped between the bicycle guy and the guy in the car. Now it would be racist if I mentioned the nationalities, but these were Americans. But, I do suspect the meeting was set up over the cell phone.

Posted by: TexasGringo | July 8, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

drug $$$$$ go a long way to purchase anything withourt id. illegal amigo go home.this gringo (wapo censor this?)considers u criminals

Posted by: pofinpa | July 8, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

"David Saunier of, a group that uses technology to help solve socioeconomic problems, said it is difficult to know what kinds of applications the people surveyed are using."

It isn't difficult to infer from the study: 50-100% higher rates of usages by non-hispanic blacks vs nonhispanic whites in these areas: playing a game, recording a video, playing music, IMing, using a social network site, watching a video, and posting pictures and videos. Other than the social networking, none of these will help his demographic "find jobs, manage household expenses and do homework"!

Studies with statistics based on race are somewhat biased since the economic demographic of NH blacks and NH whites are not the same. I really wish they had or released data based on race and income jointly.

They should also study if people (by race and income) are using the wired web (dial-up,DSL,cable,fiber) for these same tasks. I know I was predominantly using the wired web until I was well into the upper income demographic and started using both. Location to infrastructure is also important since it might be easier to find free wifi spots in a city than in the suburb.

Posted by: prokaryote | July 8, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse

In-Tar-web funny did you thank of that yourself. Redneck alert!!!

Oh it can't be true huh


Posted by: SOLVBACK | July 8, 2010 9:48 PM | Report abuse

Race/ethnicity is a proxy for income and social class in the United States. People from traditionally oppressed groups, blacks and Hispanics, generally have lower incomes. This effects what members can afford to buy. For example, minority households are more likely to be cell phone only, saving the cost of a landline. Demographics that include race/ethnicity are important to understanding and solving our problems.

Posted by: query0 | July 9, 2010 12:13 AM | Report abuse

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