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Hispanics Still Lag in Internet Penetration, but Just Slightly

A majority of third-generation Hispanics seek more online content that speaks to them as Hispanics.

June 15, 2017 | eMarketer Podcast | Demographics

Early in the internet age, Hispanics were on the wrong side of the digital divide, lagging the general population in terms of internet access. Now, the majority are internet users, though Hispanics still underindex a bit for internet penetration.

eMarketer estimates that 79.8% of Hispanics will use the internet at least monthly this year—slightly lower than the 83.7% figure for the total US population.

US Internet User Penetration, by Race/Ethnicity, 2016-2021 (% of population)

According to eMarketer’s latest report, “US Hispanics and Digital Usage: How They Differ from Non-Hispanics—and from One Another,” (the full report is available only to eMarketer PRO subscribers) internet usage by Hispanics will continue to lag the overall population through 2021, but not by much.

Hispanics and non-Hispanics in the US are more similar than not in basic attitudes about the internet, judging by a yearlong Simmons Research poll concluded in November 2016. For instance, 35.2% of Hispanics and 32.9% of non-Hispanics agreed that “the internet has become a primary source of entertainment for me personally.”

But while Hispanic usage of the internet is growing ever more similar to usage by other groups, there remain distinct differences within the Hispanic population itself. For instance, 43.5% of Hispanics ages 18 to 34 agreed that “I spend less time watching television on my television set because of the internet,” vs. 29.2% of those 35 to 49 and 16.7% of those 50 and older.

It is often said that English is the default language for bilingual Hispanics when going online. But is that true? Dan Murphy, senior vice president of audience measurement and analytics at Univision, said the notion that Hispanics “immediately speak English” when they go online is “one of the largest misperceptions that exist out there in the marketplace.” He cited search as an example of what Hispanics actually do online: “When they go to Google, they speak in whatever language they want to. They speak in a language that’s appropriate to what they’re looking for.”

US Hispanic Consumers' Attitudes Toward the Internet, by Age, Nov 2016 (% of Hispanic population in each group)

Murphy’s observations are consistent with findings from a July 2016 survey of US Hispanics ages 18 to 55 by Latinum Network for Facebook IQ. Among bilinguals, 62% said they do at least half of their online reading in Spanish; 69% do at least half of their video viewing that way.

Language aside, interest in Hispanic-oriented online content extends beyond recent immigrants. That was evident in an August 2016 survey by Yahoo in conjunction with Ipsos and Audience Theory. Among third-generation Hispanics (i.e., those born in the US, with both parents also US-born and at least one grandparent foreign-born), a majority (54%) “actively seek out and/or enjoy online content tailored to them as Hispanic/Latino.”

In the latest episode of the “Behind the Numbers” podcast, eMarketer analyst Mark Dolliver, author of the new report, discusses some of the digital platforms popular among US Hispanics.

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