Four years ago, surveys suggested that Latinos had fallen behind other groups in the digital divide. Today, Latinos have either narrowed or closed that gap, a recent study found.
Latinos own smart phones, access the Internet through mobile devices and use social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook at similar—and sometimes higher—rates than other groups of Americans, according to data compiled by the Pew Hispanic Center.
Internet usage among Latinos rose from 64 percent in 2009 to 78 percent in 2012. Cellphone usage increased from 76 percent to 86 percent in the same time frame. Around 90 percent of whites and 84 percent of African Americans currently own cellphones, the study said.
“Latinos are just as likely to use this technology,” Mark Lopez, one of the researchers of the study, told Fox News Latino. “There is still a digital divide but it’s less so with recent technology.”
There are a number of reasons for Latinos quick catch-up, experts claim.
Among the various groups of Americans, Latinos tend to be one of the youngest groups, with 65 percent of Hispanics between the ages of 22 and 35. Younger generations seem to adopt technology – especially social media – quicker than older people, Lopez said.
“Hispanics are younger,” he said. “Young people always seem to adopt technology better than older Latinos or older Americans in general.”
The American immigrant experience and tight communities with ties to their home countries is another reason for Hispanics are using cellphones, social media and the Internet in high numbers, said Peter Creticos, the executive director of the Chicago-based technology think tank, the Institute for Work and the Economy.
“The existence of a widespread Latino diaspora supports the idea of staying in touch,” Creticos said. “It makes a lot of intuitive sense.”
Creticos added that cellphones are a so-called “leap frog” technology.
“You can get cellphone just down the street, while it takes more time to get a landline,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if people were just skipping the hassle of getting landlines and going straight to cellphones.”
With so much business and academic work today tied to the Internet, Latinos have also realized the need to become web-savvy. While mobile Internet use is helpful, a computer is the only way for students to write papers, do homework and research, experts said.
Some 72 percent of Latinos say they own a desktop or laptop computer, compared with 83 percent of whites and 70 percent of African-Americans. Nearly eight-in-ten Latino adults go online at least occasionally, compared with 87 percent of whites and 78 percent of blacks.
“By being disconnected in today’s economy is a big disadvantage,” said Brent Wilkes, the national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens in Washington, D.C. “A lot of families have realized that not having access to the Internet at home is a dearth to their families well being.”