RS 1: Immigrants in America

Immigrants, English Ability and the Digital Divide

In Hiroshi Ono and Madeline Zavodny’s study, “Immigrants, English Ability and the Digital Divide”, the two examined the extent of the inequalities between immigrants and natives of America, more specifically with information technology (IT).  While there are many societal disadvantages immigrants face compared to natives, Ono and Zavondy say that the “lack of IT access and skills may be one of many barriers to socioeconomic advancement and assimilation for immigrants.” (1547) Ono says that while “the average education levels of immigrants has risen slightly since 1970, the gap between immigrants’ and natives’ average educational attainment has increased.” (1456) The article argues that those with limited English skills suffer from disadvantages stemming from being generalized with lower socioeconomic groups.  One disadvantage is the number of years of education one has. The article states “56 percent of adult immigrants from Latin America have less than 12 years of education, compared with less than 17 percent of natives.” (1456-1457). English proficiency is an important obstacle to analyze while studying IT access and use. Ono and Zavodny say that “[m]ore than half of immigrants in the 2000 US Census reported they do not speak English very well. The vast majority of Internet sites are in English, with 68 percent of web pages in English and only 3 percent in Spanish.” (1457). Another important factor to look at is the social networks that would enhance one’s ability to acquire IT access and skills. The article states “Individuals with many friends and relatives who own computers and use email are more likely to do so as well because they have both a lower cost of doing so – because their network helps them learn how to use IT – and a greater return to use…:” (1458). Immigrant social networks lack the ability to help one another acquire access and a skill that no one has within the community. The results of the study were simple and expected. “The results indicate that immigrants are substantially less likely than natives to use IT for every measure of IT that we examine.” (1463) When looking at the results, it seems to be be that the gap between natives and immigrants widened during a six-year period spanning from 1997-2003. During this time, computer ownership and usage rates were up for both demographics, however the gap widened. Ono and Zavondy also found that “racial and ethnic minorities are less likely to own or use computers and the internet, while education and family income are positively associated with IT usage.” (1465). Ono and Zavodny prove that English ability and immigrants as a whole face massive inequalities in both access and usage of information technology.

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