Dan Ness, Principal Analyst, MetaFacts, January 14, 2021
Are technology devices in the hands of all American adults equally? How deeply does the digital divide extend concerning ethnicity or Hispanic family of origin? I looked into these questions using the latest wave of TUP/Technology User Profile.
In TUP 2020 and many earlier waves, we asked American respondents which ethnic group they identify with – White/Caucasian, Black or African-American, Asian, and others. We also asked respondents if they were Spanish, Hispanic, or Latino. We combined the responses into five overall categories: White/non-Hispanic, Black/non-Hispanic, Asian/non-Hispanic, Hispanic, and Other/non-Hispanic.
Broad ethnic/Hispanic groups mostly similar in device penetration
The five broad ethnic/Hispanic groups are similar in smartphone, PC, tablet, and feature/basic cell phone penetration. Asian/non-Hispanic Americans have the highest market penetration rates of smartphones, PCs, and tablets. Hispanic Americans have the highest penetration rate of feature/basic cell phones.
Due to wide socioeconomic variations within ethnic/Hispanic groups, I drilled down one level, comparing those who had graduated to those who had had not. The higher smartphone, PC, and tablet use pattern was the same among college-graduated and non-graduated Asian/non-Hispanic adults. However, Asian/non-Hispanic adults have the lowest use of feature phones as compared to other groups.
Feature phone use is at similar levels across most groups. Surprisingly, Hispanic college grads have a higher rate of using feature phones than any other group, including Hispanic non-grads. Asian/non-Hispanic Americans continue their focus on newer technology.
I also probed household income as a way of differentiating ethnic/Hispanic groups. I first split each group by their median household income. Black/non-Hispanic Americans have low PC use levels, whether they have upper or lower income. Upper income Hispanic Americans have much higher PC penetration than those with lower income.
Asian Americans have the highest use of tablets of all the groups regardless of income levels.
Inequalities are merely indicators of inequities. Persistent social issues have been the warp and woof of the United States since before its founding. Although technology has brought about rapid change, there’s no guarantee that it will fix social ills. We’ve seen that the opposite can come about, and not only in the US.
Although coarse definitions such as ethnicity and Hispanic family of origin only minimally explain the many differences in human behavior, they can serve as an initial guidepost. Technology companies that choose to make a difference in either inequalities or inequities can begin with the several segments that are the furthest behind.