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More Black Americans Using Web, Report Says

October 23, 2000|From Bloomberg News

WASHINGTON — U.S. blacks gained Internet access at almost twice the rate of whites in the last two years, doubling their Web presence while seeking information about jobs, homes or spiritual material, a Pew Internet & American Life Study showed Sunday.

The report showed that 3.5 million blacks went online for the first time in the last year, with women accounting for 61% of first-time users.

The percentage of the black population using the Internet rose to 36%, an increase of 13 percentage points since 1998. The percentage of whites online rose to 50%, an increase of 8 percentage points over the same period, the analysis of phone surveys showed.

The report suggests black Americans are narrowing the so-called digital divide, the difference in the number of people who have Internet access versus those who lack the resources to get online.

"The gap in access between African Americans and whites is closing, but African Americans still do not have the same level of access to the Internet as whites," the study found.

The study said a "striking difference" is that one-third of black Web users, 33%, used the Internet to get religious and spiritual information, compared with 20% of whites. Blacks also are more likely than whites to listen to music, play games or take part in an online chat.

The study, based on an analysis of data from a phone survey of 12,751 adults taken from March to mid-August, found that compared with whites, the online black population has more women, more people with modest incomes and more people without college degrees. Among blacks who are online, 43% live in households with incomes under $40,000 a year, the study found.

A majority of online blacks are parents with children under age 18 compared with 42% of white households with children. The study said Internet access often is seen as an investment "and this seems especially true" for blacks.

Blacks use the Web for economic advancement or for quality-of-life issues, the study said. About half of blacks used the Web for job information compared with 37% of whites, and 35% hunted for a home compared with 27% for whites, the study said.

The study said 18% of blacks get access only at work, compared with 12% of whites whose only access is from work. Of those blacks who reported using the Internet, 71% said they have home access, compared with 84% for white Internet users.

The difference in access "might account" for whites using the Web for personal business, such as buying merchandise, while blacks focus on finding a job or a place to live, Pew said in the study.

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