Study finds wide racial disparity in smartphone use

Pew research shows minorities much more likely to own them

Black and Latino Americans are far more likely to own a smartphone than are their white countrymen - 44 percent vs. 30 percent -- according to new research from the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

What would account for such a wide disparity?

"We didn't probe on that question directly but there are a few items in our data that offer some possible answers," Aaron Smith, a Pew senior research specialist, says via e-mail.

"Non-whites are more likely to use their mobile devices as a primary Internet access mechanism, so we could be seeing a substitution effect where at least some of those individuals are using mobile technologies to bridge traditional adoption gaps that exist for things like wireline broadband access."

Thirty-eight percent of blacks and Latinos report they "go online mostly using their cell phone," as opposed to 17 percent of whites, Pew found.

Smith also noted: "The black and Latino populations are generally younger and more likely to live in urban areas than whites are, and both of those factors are linked with higher levels of smartphone ownership."

Overall, about one-third of U.S. adults report being smartphone owners, with the percentage rising to about half for those under age 50 and falling to one quarter for those ages 50 to 65, according to the study. Thirty-eight percent of city dwellers and suburbanites report owning smartphones, as compared with only 21 percent of rural residents. 

The report did note that previous studies by Pew have revealed that higher percentages of African Americans and Latinos use their cell phones for non-voice applications. And, a Nielsen study earlier this year reported similar results for smartphone usage.

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