African Americans are disproportionately likely to access the internet through mobile devices. The trend is drastically cutting the information gap between African American and white Americans.
The trend is unveiled in a survey by the Pew Internet and American Life project. It found that not only is the proportion of African Americans who have ever used a mobile device for internet activity higher than the overall national average (48 per cent compared with 32 per cent), but there’s a similar gap for those who do so on any particular day (29 per cent to 19 per cent). African Americans are also the group whose use of the mobile internet is increasing at the fastest rate.
This pattern also makes a significant change to the figures for overall internet use among Americans of different racial backgrounds. When you only look at people accessing the internet through a computer, 59 per cent of white Americans do so on an average day, compared to 45 per cent of African Americans. However, once you include mobile devices as well, the gap halves (61 per cent to 54 per cent).
The Pew survey doesn’t attempt to explain why these trends exist. However, it appears its a case of African Americans being less likely to afford a home computer and thus more likely to use a cell phone or other handheld device as their main way of getting online.
The difference isn’t simply down to the overall cost, but is also affected by mobile devices being easier to pay for through monthly payments (for example, where handset costs are subsidized by network carriers) than computers which usually paid for upfront.
There could also be an effect of experience changing behavior. People who already have broadband may get into the habit of relying more on the internet and thus need the high speed and relatively low monthly costs that come with home computer access. People who have never had broadband at home may use the internet on a more casual basis and thus not be put off by the comparatively low speed and low monthly download limits of mobile internet access.
(Image credit: Flickr user quinn.anya)