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Latinos on losing end of the 'digital divide'

Source: Pew Hispanic Center

A new Pew Hispanic Center study finds that U.S. Latinos are still on the losing end of the long-reported "digital divide," with Latinos less likely to have Internet access than non-Latino whites, or to have a home broadband connection or a cell phone. They also lag behind black Americans in home broadband access.

From a summary of the report:

While about two-thirds of Latino (65%) and black (66%) adults went online in 2010, more than three-fourths (77%) of white adults did so. In terms of broadband use at home, there is a large gap between Latinos (45%) and whites (65%), and the rate among blacks (52%) is somewhat higher than that of Latinos. Fully 85% of whites owned a cell phone in 2010, compared with 76% of Latinos and 79% of blacks.

The disparity is related mostly to income and education levels, and "Hispanics and whites who have similar socioeconomic characteristics have similar usage patterns for these technologies," the report summary reads. Not surprisingly, 71 percent of U.S.-born Latinos are likely to have a home Internet connection, versus 45 percent of foreign-born Latino immigrants.

The relative lack of Internet access among low-income minority students has been seen for years as a problem that holds these students back in school and beyond, getting in the way of learning and job prospects. However, the New York Times reported last year that some researchers were having second thoughts about the benefit of computers in low-income students' homes. From the piece:

Economists are trying to measure a home computer’s educational impact on schoolchildren in low-income households. Taking widely varying routes, they are arriving at similar conclusions: little or no educational benefit is found. Worse, computers seem to have further separated children in low-income households, whose test scores often decline after the machine arrives, from their more privileged counterparts.

Parental supervision could be the key, but in low-income households (where parents spend much of their time working or caring for a child solo), less supervision could be giving kids more opportunity to use computers for entertainment rather than school work, one study suggested.

The divide persists, in one way or another.