Study finds wide Internet gap among US Latinos

English ability and advanced education are two factors that play a role in use of the Internet by the Latino population of the U.S., a study says

While some segments of the U.S. Latino population are using the Internet less than other segments of the country's adult population, some Latinos are online more than non-Hispanic whites and African-Americans, according to a study released Wednesday by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

According to the study, 56 percent of Latinos go online. Of Latinos who speak only Spanish, 33 percent use the Internet. However, 78 percent of English-dominant Latinos and 76 percent of bilingual Latinos surf the Web. Internet usage by these two Latino groups exceeds statistics generated by their white and African-American counterparts. Seventy-one percent of whites and 60 percent of African-Americans surf the Web, the study notes.

The survey defined Internet use as occasionally going online and included sending and receiving e-mail as Internet use.

The study attributes Latinos' low overall Internet usage rates to a combination of socioeconomic factors, including limited English abilities and low education levels.

As in other groups, education plays a role in Latinos' likelihood to use the Internet. Of the 10 percent of Latins with a college degree, 89 percent go online. Of the 49 percent of Latinos who completed high school, 70 percent go on the Web. That figure declines to 31 percent for the 41 percent of Latins without a high-school education.

Also similar to other Pew surveys, younger generations of Latinos go online more than their elders. The study showed that this held true in the surveyed Latino demographic. The study noted that 67 percent of Latinos between the ages of 18 and 29 use the Internet, compared with 61 percent of Latinos aged 30 to 41. In the 42-to-51 age bracket, 58 percent went online. That figure dropped to 46 percent for those between 52 and 60, 27 percent in 61-to-70 age range and 17 percent for those older than 71.

Birthplace also plays a factor in the Latino population's likelihood of going online. Almost 80 percent of Latinos born in the U.S. use the Internet, compared with 43 percent of their immigrant counterparts. Internet use also is higher children of immigrants. Eighty percent of Latino second-generation U.S. residents use the Internet. However, that figure declines to 71 percent for third-generation Americans.

The research found differences Internet usage rates across national origins.

Latinos from Central America, which the study defines as seven countries, are the least likely to go online, with half of this demographic using the Internet. Mexicans, who are the largest Latino national-origin group in U.S., are the next least likely to go online, with a 52 percent usage rate. Fifty-nine percent of Latinos with a Dominican heritage use the Net, as do 64 percent of Cuban-Americans. Puerto Ricans in the U.S. have relatively high Internet use, with 66 percent communicating via the Web. With a 70 percent rate, South Americans are the largest group online.

The study was conducted between June and October 2006 through approximately 6,000 telephone interviews. The nonprofit Pew Internet & American Life Project aims to study the Internet's affects on assorted aspects of daily life. The Pew Charitable Trusts funds the organization.

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Fred O'Connor

IDG News Service

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