January 6, 2014

African Americans and Technology Use

Detailed Demographic Tables

Internet use and Broadband adoption

Nationally, there is a seven percentage point gap between whites and blacks when it comes to internet use. Internet use is nearly universal among younger adults, the college-educated, and those with relatively high incomes, regardless of race. But older blacks are significantly less likely to go online than their white counterparts—just 45% of African Americans age 65 or older use the internet. Internet use is also notably less common among blacks who have not attended college, compared with whites with a similar level of educational attainment.

Internet Usage, White vs. African American

The broadband adoption gap between whites and blacks is around twice as big as for internet use in general—12 percentage points. As with internet use, differences between white and black are most concentrated among older adults and those with low levels of educational attainment. Just 30% of African Americans age 65 or older, and 39% of African Americans who have not attended college, are home broadband users. By contrast, broadband adoption is nearly universal among young adults, the college educated, and those in higher-income households, regardless of whether those individuals are black or white.

Broadband at home, White vs. African American

The following table summarizes internet use and broadband adoption among African Americans.

Summary table of internet use among African Americans

Cell phone ownership

90% of whites and 92% of African Americans own a cell phone of some kind, and there are few differences between whites and blacks across demographic categories when it comes to cell phone ownership.

Cell phone ownership, White vs. African American

Smartphone ownership

Smartphone ownership is equally common among blacks and whites—56% of African Americans and 53% of whites are smartphone owners. For both blacks and whites, smartphone ownership is strongly correlated with age: just 18% of seniors of either race own a smartphone.

Smartphone Ownership, White vs. African American

Some 10% of African American adults indicate that they do not have a traditional broadband connection in their home, but that they do own a smartphone. This means that 72% of African Americans have either a home broadband connection or a smartphone (or both). Here is how that 72% breaks down:

  • 46% of African Americans have both a broadband connection and a smartphone
  • 16% have home broadband connection, but not a smartphone
  • 10% have a smartphone, but not broadband at home

Ultimately, smartphones narrow—but do not eliminate entirely—the “high speed access gap” between whites and blacks. As noted above there is a 12-point difference between whites and blacks when it comes to home broadband adoption; by contrast, there is an 8-point difference between whites and blacks when it comes to the proportion of each group who has either a home broadband connection or a smartphone.

Broadband and/or smartphone adoption

Social networking sites and Twitter

Social networking site adoption is identical among white and black internet users1: 72% of online whites and 73% of online blacks use online social networks. For both whites and blacks, social networking site usage is near-ubiquitous among students and young adults (some 96% of black internet users ages 18-29 are social networking site users).

Social networking site use, among White vs. African American internet users

As has consistently been the case since we began studying Twitter as a standalone platform, African Americans have higher levels of Twitter use than whites (22% of online blacks are Twitter users, compared with 16% of online whites). Younger African Americans have especially high rates of Twitter usage—a full 40% of African American internet users ages 18-29 say that they use Twitter, compared with 28% of whites of the same age.

Twitter use, among White vs. African American internet users

Tablet computers and e-readers

Both tablet computer and e-reader ownership levels are five percentage points lower among African Americans than among whites. Some 29% of African Americans (vs. 34% of whites) own a tablet computer, and 21% own an e-reader (vs. 26% of whites).

Tablet Computer Ownership, White vs. African American


E-Reader Ownership, White vs. African American
  1. Note that the findings for social networking site and Twitter use are based on the online population within each group, rather than all adults.