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Race and the Digital Divide

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  • Fairlie, Robert

Abstract

In recent years, a plethora of public and private programs in the United States have been created to close the "Digital Divide." Interestingly, however, we know very little about the underlying causes of racial differences in rates of computer and Internet access. In this paper, I use data from the Computer and Internet Use Supplement to the August 2000 Current Population Survey (CPS) to explore this question. Estimates from the CPS indicate that Mexican-Americans are roughly one-half as likely to own a computer and one-third as likely to have Internet access at home than are whites. The black home computer rate is 59 percent of the white rate and the black home Internet access rate is 51 percent of the white rate. Using Blinder-Oaxaca decompositions, I find that racial differences in education, income and occupation contribute substantially to the black/white and Mexican-American/white gaps in home computer and Internet access rates. The digital divide between races, however, is not simply an "income divide" as income differences explain only 10 to 30 percent of the gaps in access to technology. I do not find evidence that price or school differences are responsible for the remaining gaps. I find some evidence, however, that language barriers may be important in explaining low rates of computer and Internet access among Mexican-Americans. In recent years, a plethora of public and private programs in the United States have been created to close the "Digital Divide." Interestingly, however, we know very little about the underlying causes of racial differences in rates of computer and Internet access. In this paper, I use data from the Computer and Internet Use Supplement to the August 2000 Current Population Survey (CPS) to explore this question. Estimates from the CPS indicate that Mexican-Americans are roughly one-half as likely to own a computer and one-third as likely to have Internet access at home than are whites. The black home computer rate is 59 percent of the white rate and the black home Internet access rate is 51 percent of the white rate. Using Blinder-Oaxaca decompositions, I find that racial differences in education, income and occupation contribute substantially to the black/white and Mexican-American/white gaps in home computer and Internet access rates. The digital divide between races, however, is not simply an "income divide" as income differences explain only 10 to 30 percent of the gaps in access to technology. I do not find evidence that price or school differences are responsible for the remaining gaps. I find some evidence, however, that language barriers may be important in explaining low rates of computer and Internet access among Mexican-Americans.

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  • Fairlie, Robert, 2014. "Race and the Digital Divide," Santa Cruz Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt48h8h99w, Department of Economics, UC Santa Cruz.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdl:ucscec:qt48h8h99w
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Keywords

    Social and Behavioral Sciences; ICT; computers; Internet; technology; Digital Divide; Minorities;
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