October 22, 2000

African-Americans and the Internet

How African-Americans use the Internet

Online African-Americans are proportionally more likely than online whites to have searched for information about major life issues such as researching new jobs and finding places to live. They are also more likely to have sought entertainment online through music, video and audio clips, and instant messaging. And they are more likely to have searched for religious or spiritual information.

  • Online blacks are 69% more likely than online whites to have listened to music on the Web.
  • Online blacks are 65% more likely than online whites to have sought religious information on the Web.
  • Online blacks are 45% more likely than online whites to have played a game on the Web.
  • Online blacks are 38% more likely than online whites to have downloaded music files from the Web.
  • Online blacks are 38% more likely than online whites to have sought information about jobs on the Web.
  • Online blacks are 30% more likely than online whites to have sought information about a place to live on the Web.
  • Online blacks are 20% more likely than online whites to have conducted school research or gotten job training on the Web.

Online behavior

The Internet helps, especially on health and hobbies

More than online whites, online African-Americans are likely to say that the Internet helps them get health care information and pursue their hobbies. African-Americans also greatly appreciate how the Internet helps them learn new things. On the other hand, whites are more likely than blacks to say the Internet helps them connect to family and friends.

  • 45% of online African-Americans say the Internet helps them get health care information, compared to 35% of whites who say that.
  • 57% of online African-Americans say the Internet helps them pursue their hobbies, compared to 50% of whites who say that.
  • 62% of online whites say the Internet helps their connections to their friends, compared to 55% of blacks who say that.
  • 56% of online whites say the Internet helps their connections to the family, compared to 51% of blacks who say that.

Email: Great for families, almost as great for friends

Online African-Americans appreciate their ability to stay in touch with family and many say it helps them stay in better contact with friends. However, they are less likely than whites to use email to sustain friendships.

  • 89% of African-American email users have emailed a member of their family. And 56% of those with an email relationship with a key family member believe that their use of email has helped them communicate more often with that family member. These figures are similar to those for online whites.
  • 69% of African-Americans who use email maintain email relationships with friends, compared to 80% of white emailers who use electronic communication that way.
  • 44% of African-American emailers who maintain an email relationship with a friend say they communicate more with that friend thanks to email; 65% of whites who email friends say they communicate more often thanks to email.

A growing online population

More than three and a half million African-American adults have gone online for the first time in the past year. That has nearly doubled the size of the black online population from what it was a year ago. Women have driven the growth of the black Internet population and they outnumber African-American men with Internet access.  In addition, parents are a large part of this expanding population. Moreover, there are signs that the growth of the online black population will outpace the growth of the online white population and eventually the proportions of each group online could be equal. Many blacks who do not now have Internet access say they plan to go online.

  • 36% of all African-American adults, about 7.5 million people, now have Internet access; 23% of African-Americans were online in 1998.
  • 48% of all African-American Internet users have gone online for the first time in the past year.
  • 61% of the newcomers are women and, overall, the proportion of black women to black men in the Internet population is 56% to 44%.
  • 46% of African-Americans who are not online say they probably or definitely
    will go online in the future. This compares to 40% of offline whites who say they plan to go online.

The daily divide

The gap in access between African-Americans and whites is closing, but African-Americans still do not have the same level of access to the Internet as whites. African-Americans with access to the Internet do not go online as often on a typical day as whites do. And online blacks do not participate on a daily basis in most Web activities at the same level as online whites.

  • 50% of whites now have Internet access, compared to 36% of African-Americans.
  • 36% of African-Americans with Internet access go online on a typical day, compared to 56% of whites.
  • 27% of blacks with Internet access send or receive email on a typical day, compared to 49% of online whites who send or receive email on a typical day.

The gender gap

Compared to African-American men, African-American women are much more likely to have sought health information, job information, and religious information online. Compared to African-American women, African-American men are much more likely to have purchased products online and sought sports and financial information. This mirrors gender patterns in the overall Internet population.

The generation story

Compared to older African-Americans, those under age 30 are more likely to be drawn to leisure activities on the Internet such as participating in chat rooms, playing games, and using multimedia sources. Older African-Americans are more likely to have gotten religious information.

Experience counts

Online African-Americans who have at least two years experience are more likely than newcomers to go online on a typical day and more likely to spend three or more hours online during that typical day. Veteran Internet users are also more likely than novices to use email, get news, research and buy products, look for job information, seek material on places to live, do banking online, and conduct job-related research. Veterans are more likely than newcomers to report that Internet tools have helped them manage their finances better, improved their connection with family members and friends, and helped them learn new things.