While disparities in Internet use persist among racial and ethnic groups, smartphones appear to be helping to bridge the digital divide, according to a report issued today by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The findings are part of the latest Census Bureau report, Computer and Internet Use in the United States: 2011 [PDF], which provides analysis of computer and Internet use for households and individuals. The information comes from data collected as part of the Current Population Survey's 2011 Computer and Internet Use Supplement, which was sponsored and funded by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
The report also features a table that places users along a "connectivity continuum" and shows that a sizeable percentage of Internet users now make their online connections both inside and outside the home and from multiple devices.
"Going online is no longer a simple yes or no proposition," said Thom File, the report's author and a sociologist with the Census Bureau. "Different groups of people are accessing the Internet in very different ways, and these statistics give us a better understanding of how and where those connections are taking place."
According to the report, a gap of 27.1 percentage points exists between groups with the highest and lowest reported rates of home Internet use. Asians reported the highest use at 78.3 percent and Hispanics the lowest at 51.2 percent. However, the gap narrows to 17.5 percentage points when smartphone use is factored into overall rates of Internet use. With smartphones factored in, 83.0 percent of Asians and 65.5 percent of Hispanics reported going online.
In terms of smartphone usage on its own, 51.6 percent of Asian respondents reported using a smartphone. About 48.0 percent of both white non-Hispanics and blacks reported smartphone use, and 45.4 percent of Hispanics said they used smartphones. The reported usage rates for blacks and Hispanics were not statistically different from each other. Overall, 48.2 percent of individuals 15 and older reported using a smartphone.
For the first time, a third (34%) of American adults ages 18 and older own a tablet computer like an iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Google Nexus, or Kindle Fire—almost twice as many as the 18% who owned a tablet a year ago.The Pew Research Center also reports:
Demographic groups most likely to own tablets include:
- Those living in households earning at least $75,000 per year (56%), compared with lower income brackets
- Adults ages 35-44 (49%), compared with younger and older adults
- College graduates (49%), compared with adults with lower levels of education.
For the first time since the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project began systematically tracking smartphone adoption, a majority of Americans now own a smartphone of some kind. Our definition of a smartphone owner includes anyone who says “yes” to one—or both—of the following questions:
Taken together, 61% of cell owners said yes to at least one of these questions and are classified as smartphone owners. Because 91% of the adult population now owns some kind of cell phone, that means that 56% of all American adults are now smartphone adopters. One third (35%) have some other kind of cell phone that is not a smartphone, and the remaining 9% of Americans do not own a cell phone at all.
- 55% of cell phone owners say that their phone is a smartphone.
- 58% of cell phone owners say that their phone operates on a smartphone platform common to the U.S. market.