TitleNational-Level Disparities in Internet Access Among Low-Income and Black and Hispanic Youth: Current Population Survey.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsDolcini, MM, Canchola, JA, Catania, JA, Mayeda, MMSong, Dietz, EL, Cotto-Negrón, C, Narayanan, V
JournalJ Med Internet Res
Date Published10/2021
KeywordsAdolescent, African Americans, COVID-19, Ethnic Groups, Health Status Disparities, Healthcare Disparities, Hispanic Americans, Humans, Internet Access, SARS-CoV-2, United States


Internet access is increasingly critical for adolescents with regard to obtaining health information and resources, participating in web-based health promotion, and communicating with health practitioners. However, past work demonstrates that access is not uniform among youth in the United States, with lower access found among groups with higher health-related needs. Population-level data yield important insights about access and internet use in the United States.


The aim of this study is to examine internet access and mode of access by social class and race and ethnicity among youth (aged 14-17 years) in the United States.


Using the Current Population Survey, we examined internet access, cell phone or smartphone access, and modes of connecting to the internet for adolescents in 2015 (unweighted N=6950; expanded weights N=17,103,547) and 2017 (unweighted N=6761; expanded weights N=17,379,728).


Internet access increased from 2015 to 2017, but socioeconomic status (SES) and racial and ethnic disparities remained. In 2017, the greatest disparities were found for youth in low-income households (no home access=23%) and for Black youth (no home access=18%) and Hispanic youth (no home access=14%). Low-income Black and Hispanic youth were the most likely to lack home internet access (no home access, low SES Black youth=29%; low SES Hispanic youth=21%). The mode of access (eg, from home and smartphone) and smartphone-only analyses also revealed disparities.


Without internet access, web-based dissemination of information, health promotion, and health care will not reach a significant segment of youth. Currently, SES and racial and ethnic disparities in access prolong health inequalities. Moreover, the economic impact of COVID-19 on Black, Hispanic, and low-income communities may lead to losses in internet access for youth that will further exacerbate disparities.

Alternate JournalJ Med Internet Res
PubMed ID34636728
PubMed Central IDPMC8548978
Grant ListR34 MH120512 / MH / NIMH NIH HHS / United States