Despite the much cited "digital divide," many multicultural consumers in the U.S. are getting much more active online but in different ways, according to new research from global market research firm Synovate.

Though younger people across all groups are much more likely to be online, there are major differences, including between males and females of the same age and ethnic group.

To find out more about online behavior among multicultural consumers, Synovate recently surveyed a total of 4,000 males and females ages 18+ across the U.S., including approximately 1,000 general market respondents, 1,000 African-Americans and 2,000 Hispanics.

Though approximately one in four Hispanics, African-Americans and general market consumers have visited in the past six months, African-American and Hispanic males ages 18-34 were more likely to have visited YouTube than their female counterparts. Among African-Americans, 55% of males and 33% of females visited YouTube, while among Hispanics, 41% of males and 20% of females visited the site. This differs from the general market, for which visiting this website was equally popular between males and females in the same age group.

For Hispanics, this gender disparity also extends to social networking sites such as and Hispanic females were significantly less likely than Hispanic males to have visited social networking websites recently, with 18% of women and 27% of men claiming to have visited them.

This is in sharp contrast to African-American and general market men and women, who were equally as likely to have visited MySpace or Facebook.

The differences in online behavior are especially prevalent with online shopping. Among general market consumers, 57% have made a recent purchase online while only 42% of African-Americans and one quarter of Hispanics have done the same. The gap is even larger with eBay visits. Less than three out of ten African-Americans and Hispanics have visited eBay in the past six months versus 41% of the general market population.

According to Denise Marks, Vice President of Diversity Research at Synovate, "For many multicultural consumers, Internet usage is about connecting with friends and family, and to keep up on the latest trends and news. As more Hispanics and African-Americans spend time online, marketing efforts should be directed towards building trust among these consumers to help them feel comfortable about online commercial transactions."

Hispanics also lag behind other groups in adopting online banking, with only 24% claiming to have paid monthly bills online recently compared to 38% of general market consumers and 34% of African-Americans. While Hispanics overall are less likely to own financial products such as bank accounts and credit cards, their lower use of online banking may also be due to the fact that only 59% of Hispanics have Internet access at home, work, school, or through other means. This is substantially lower than the African-American and general market populations, of which at least 80% have Internet access.

Marks said, "Although Internet access is steadily increasing among Hispanics, basic necessities still come first for many in this group, the majority of whom are immigrants. Buying a computer is not always at the top of their shopping list, especially with the current jump in food and gas prices."

Use of instant messaging, and posting to blogs and other online forums is similar across all groups, and again skews towards younger respondents.

Instant messaging is more popular among Hispanic males than females, at 32% versus 24%, but there are no differences between the sexes for blogging.

With overall activity online, there are many differences among Hispanics depending on the language spoken at home. Overall, Hispanics that speak Spanish at home all or most of the time are much less likely to spend time online than those who are bilingual or English-dominant. The largest divide in online activities for the two language groups are engaging in commercial transactions or visiting social networks such as MySpace or Facebook. Those who speak English at least as much as Spanish are more likely to participate or visit these websites.


(Reprinted courtesy of Synovate)


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