Language Key to Latinos Online

March 15, 2007

Spanish-language ads are not necessarily a mass medium for reaching Latinos.

Whether Latinos use the Internet is closely related to whether they are bilingual, and to which language is dominant, according to a new study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Among Latinos who are English-dominant, 78% use the Internet. Among bilingual Latinos, 76% use the Internet. Fewer than a third (32%) of Spanish-dominant Hispanic adults are Internet users.

Pew's analysis indicates that being born outside of the 50 states is an independent factor that decreases the likelihood of going online. Of US-born Latinos, 76% go online, compared with 43% of those born outside the country. As a related factor, foreign-born Latinos tend to be Spanish-dominant, which again points back to language as a determinant of Internet use.

As with all ethnicities, education level is closely associated with Internet use. Online use is about 90% for all college graduates, regardless of ethnicity. For those who did not graduate from high school, the numbers are reversed: Less than a third are online. This difference is more pronounced among Latinos, as 41% have not completed high school, according to the study. This compares with one out of five African-Americans who have not graduated from high school, and one out of 10 whites.

Latino Internet use is also associated with country of origin. Those from South America are most likely to be online (70%), while only 52% of Latinos of Mexican descent are.

Most Latinos who are offline say they simply do not have Internet access. Price and time are also factors.

Besides the fact that Hispanic Americans are the fastest-growing minority group in the US, Latinos are an attractive demographic for another reason. eMarketer estimated greater growth for Hispanic online ad spending (32%) than general-market online ad spending (25%) in 2006.

"Even though many Hispanic Internet users speak English, they still want advertising and online content that speaks to them in a culturally relevant way," said eMarketer senior analyst Debra Aho Williamson. "Marketers will reach some Hispanic people by advertising on general-market sites, but they should also consider sites that are in English but are specifically aimed at the Hispanic population."

Get an in-depth look at young Hispanic Internet users. Read eMarketer's Hispanic Youth Online: Language and Culture Define Usage report.

©2007 eMarketer Inc. All rights reserved