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Survey: Black students less Web-connected than whites

Student/computer
Black students are less likely to have computers in their homes, a new survey shows   
April 17, 1998
Web posted at: 3:41 p.m. EDT (1941 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- White students in high school and college are more likely than black students to have computers in their homes and use the World Wide Web, according to the results of a new survey.

While 73 percent of white students had a home computer, only 33 percent of black students did, according to a report from Vanderbilt University researchers published in the latest issue of the journal Science.

The gap remained even when researchers accounted for differences in income.

vxtreme CNN's Marsha Walton reports

For all ages, the computer gap was somewhat narrower, with 44 percent of whites having a home computer and 29 percent of blacks. But while 59 percent of whites surveyed reported using the Web in the past six months, only 31 percent of blacks reported Internet use.

Researchers concluded that with the Internet becoming an increasingly important part of American education and economic progress, "a significant segment of our society is in danger of being denied equal access."

"There will be a generation that is completely unprepared for the economy in the new millennium," said Donna Hoffman, an associate professor at Vanderbilt who helped write the study. "They will not have the tech skills. They will not be properly educated to be competitive in the new economy." icon (63K/6 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

"This is an unbelievable waste of resources," she said.

The study was based on telephone interviews of more than 5,800 people in December 1996 and January 1997. The margin of error was not provided.

Among the survey's other findings:

Statistics graphic
  • While 78 percent of the nation's public schools have some sort of Internet access, only 63 percent of schools with a high percentage of poor or minority students are connected.
    "If you look at schools in poor neighborhoods or schools which are predominately minority, you find that they have many more students per computer," Hoffman said.
  • Of white students without a computer in the home, 37 percent had used the Internet anyway, at schools, libraries, community centers or cybercafes. But only 16 percent of African-American students without a home computer logged on.
    "That is an astonishing difference. White students, but not African-American students, are finding other ways to access the Internet. It's a very disquieting result," Hoffman said. icon 106K/10 sec. AIFF or WAV sound
Donna Hoffman of Vanderbilt University talks about the study
video icon 723K/20 sec./160x120
QuickTime movie
  • However, black families without a home computer were nearly twice as likely as white families without one to say that they planned to purchase a computer within the next six months. Slightly more whites than blacks also said they were interested in Web TV or other devices that would offer inexpensive Internet access. That's significant, the report said, because it shows that blacks want access to the Web.
  • The survey suggests that far more blacks are using the Web than the 1 million previously estimated. About 5 million African Americans reported that they used the Web, and 1.4 million said they had used it during the week before they were surveyed.

Correspondent Marsha Walton contributed to this report.


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