Census: Smartphones Bridging Digital Divide

Jun 10, 2013

Smartphones appear to be increasing the rates in which blacks and Hispanics access the Internet, helping reduce disparities with whites and Asians, a government report said Monday.

The U.S. Census Bureau survey was the first time the agency asked respondents about whether they used smartphones to go online, allowing a comparison of each racial and ethnic group's overall digital activity. The bureau said that whites and Asians were more likely to have access to a home Internet connection.

Asians, for example, reported home Internet rates that were 27 percentage points higher than Hispanics. That rate disparity dropped to 18 percentage points with smartphone and home use combined.

Close to half of all Americans use a smart phone to connect to the Internet, and that rate remains similar across all groups: Asians (51.6%), non-Hispanic whites (48.6%), blacks (47.3%), Hispanics (45.4%).

Those figures changed significantly when respondents were asked whether they got online with a computer at home. Overall, disparities remain but they've narrowed: Asians (78.3%), non-Hispanic whites (72.5%), blacks (53.8%), Hispanics (51.2%).

The findings related to smartphones were part of a larger report about Internet use in America, released annually by the bureau as part of the Current Population Survey. You can access the data here.

In 2011, more Americans connected to the Internet than ever before. Roughly 7 in 10 Americans use the Internet at home, up 20 percentage points from a decade before, according to the survey.

Matt Stiles is data editor on NPR's News Applications team. You can follow him on Twitter at @stiles.

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