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Class Trumps Race When It Comes To Internet Access

Smartphones offer a way for lower-income people who don't have broadband access at home to connect to the Internet.
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Smartphones offer a way for lower-income people who don't have broadband access at home to connect to the Internet.
Class Trumps Race When It Comes To Internet Access

A new study from the Pew Research Center finds that age and income play a larger role than race when it comes to high-speed Internet access. Lower-income African-Americans often buy smartphones to compensate for not having a broadband connection at home. Smartphones, however, may not be enough.

Black Americans who are young and college graduates are on the same footing as their white counterparts when it comes to getting online or using a smartphone. But Aaron Smith, a Pew researcher, says using a mobile device as a primary means of accessing the Internet has drawbacks. There's a lot you can't do on a smartphone.

"For instance," Smith says, "distance learning or filling out job applications. Those may be much more difficult on a smartphone than on a more traditional device."

Smith says that's a growing problem in a world where an Internet connection is key for everything from accessing education to getting government services.

"So to the extent that this particular group that has a very strong need for some of those services is much less likely to be online, I think that that's a very relevant finding for policymakers, nonprofits and other people who are seeking to serve that community," Smith says.

According to Smith, the biggest takeaway from the study is that class trumps race when it comes to Internet access.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Laura Sydell fell in love with the intimate storytelling qualities of radio, which combined her passion for theatre and writing with her addiction to news. Over her career she has covered politics, arts, media, religion, and entrepreneurship. Currently Sydell is the Digital Culture Correspondent for NPR's All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, and NPR.org.