Hispanic Americans’ Internet Use Lags Behind Other Americans

Pew Center study finds that most Hispanic Americans "remain largely disconnected from the Internet."

By Larisa Thomason

Hispanic Americans are the fastest growing minority group in the United States, but they don’t access the Internet in numbers equal to their size. A joint study titled “Latinos Online” by the Pew Hispanic Center and the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that only 56% of Latinos regularly use the Internet. Comparatively, 71% of non-Hispanic white Americans are regular users.

The study also found that length of residence, education, and language largely determines Internet use among Latinos. For example, the summary section notes the following statistics:

  • 78% of Latinos who are English-dominant and 76% of bilingual Latinos use the Internet, compared with 32% of Spanish-dominant Hispanic adults.
  • 80% of second-generation Latinos, the sons and daughters of immigrants, go online, as do 71% of third-generation Latinos.
  • 89% of Latinos who have a college degree, 70% of Latinos who completed high school, and 31% of Latinos who did not complete high school go online.

So, does this mean that Web site owners who spent time and money creating good, usable Spanish language pages and Hispanic-oriented content to their Web sites have wasted the effort? No.

They should probably congratulate themselves for being ahead of the curve. The Hispanic population is growing rapidly, which means an increase in absolute numbers of users – even if the percentage remains the same.

However, the statistics cited in the Pew survey lead me to believe that the current 56% overall total should rise sharply in the next decade (or sooner). If for no other reason than the population of second and third-generation Latino Americans will increase as the current generation raises families.

As a relatively youthful, fast-growing segment of the population, Hispanic Americans are an attractive demographic segment. As you develop new content for your Web site, maybe it’s time to consider appealing to this market.

That doesn’t mean you have to start developing a complete Spanish-language mirror of your site. Instead, review culturally relevant ways you can appeal to the market. Maybe that does mean offering some Spanish-language pages, acknowledging more diverse holidays, or modifying your merchandise offerings. It depends on your target audience and their preferences.

A key component of usability is readability and, by extension, the ability of your audience to understand the content offered. Make sure that you and your target market (literally) speak the same language!

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