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California's Digital Divide Print E-mail
Written by Mark Baldassare, Dean Bonner, Sonja Petek, and Jui Shrestha

  • Internet use and broadband access are widespread among Californians.
    A large majority of Californians have a broadband Internet connection at home (72%, up from 55% in 2008). Broadband use at home is 11 points higher in California than in the nation as a whole: In a recent Pew Internet & American Life Project survey, 61% of adults nationwide reported having broadband. Currently, 84% of Californians use the Internet (up from 70% in 2008), compared to 77% of adults nationwide.

  • But demographic differences are striking.
    Despite a 21-point increase in broadband use among Latinos since 2008 (rising from 34% to 55%), other racial/ethnic groups are still much more likely to use broadband: whites (81%), Asians (76%), and blacks (74%). Still, the divide between Latinos and other racial/ethnic groups has narrowed somewhat since 2008 (minus 8 points compared to whites, minus 12 points compared to Asians, and minus 13 points compared to blacks). Similarly, despite a 27-point increase in broadband use among non-citizens since 2008 (rising from 23% to 50%), U.S.-born residents (80%) and naturalized citizens (64%) are still more likely to report broadband use. Still, although a gap remains, the divide between U.S-born residents and non-citizens has narrowed by 14 points since 2008. Broadband use is higher among college graduates (90%) and those with some college education (84%) than among less educated Californians (53%). Similarly, broadband use is higher among adults with household incomes of $80,000 or more (93%) and among those who earn between $40,000 and $80,000 (82%) than among less affluent Californians (58%). Higher broadband use is also reported by residents in the San Francisco Bay Area (78%, up 13 points since 2008) and in the Orange/San Diego County area (76%, up 18 points) than by residents in the Central Valley (70%, up 17), Los Angeles (68%, up 20), and the Inland Empire (66%, up 10).

  • And differences exist even across Latino subgroups.
    While broadband use among Latinos has increased 21 points since 2008, disparities among Latinos persist. Some Latino subgroups are similar to other racial/ethnic groups in their use of broadband. For example, relatively high rates of broadband use are evident among those who are U.S. born (79%), who prefer to speak English (82%), and who earn at least $40,000 per year (78%). But other Latino subgroups still lag far behind, such as those who are foreign-born (40%), who prefer to speak Spanish (35%), and who earn under $40,000 per year (47%).

  • Residents with disabilities and older residents lag behind.
    Not every adult with a disability is able to participate in telephone surveys. Among those in our surveys who do report a disability, handicap, or chronic disease, or who have difficulty seeing, hearing, talking, or walking, 49% report they use broadband, compared to 76% without a disability. Residents with a disability are also far less likely than others to report Internet use (67% vs. 87%). Similarly, older Californians are less likely than younger generations to report broadband or Internet use. Those age 55 and older are the least likely to report using this technology (61% broadband, 74% Internet) compared to those in the 35-54 age group (72% broadband, 84% Internet) and the 18-34 age group (81% broadband, 92% Internet).

  • Younger, more educated, and more affluent adults are more likely to access the Internet with a cell phone.
    Forty percent of adults use their cell phone to access the Internet, a 21-point increase since 2008 (19% 2008, 26% 2009, 40% today). Residents ages 18 to 34 are far more likely than adults age 55 and older to use their cell phone to go online (57% vs. 17%). Using a cell phone to access the Internet is highest among blacks (57%), followed by whites (43%), Asians (41%), and Latinos (32%). The percentage of adults using cell phones to connect to the Internet declines sharply with age and increases sharply with education and income.

 Sources:(1) PPIC Statewide Surveys, June 2008 (2,503 adults), June 2009 (2,502 adults), July 2010 (2,502 adults), and June 2011 (2,502 adults). Margin of error for all adults in 2011 ±2.8%; margin of error for subgroups is larger. (2) Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.