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Digital gap narrows – Blacks, women going online

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The digital divide between men and women, and between whites and blacks, has narrowed rapidly over the last six months, a new study says.

Nine million adult women went online for the first time in the last six months in the United States, bringing gender parity to the Internet for the first time, says the study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

The study also found that only about 35 percent of blacks are online, compared with 50 percent of whites and 46 percent of Latinos, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

Blacks are the fastest-growing online group: 30 percent of black Internet users went online in the last six months.

The study also found that the Internet is strengthening social interactions, contrary to the results of a February study by Stanford University that said too much Internet use turned some people into recluses.

Long-time and heavy Internet users were just as likely as others to have visited or phoned a friend or family member in the day prior to being polled for the study, study director Lee Rainie told the Inquirer.

The study called e-mail “the isolation antidote,” particularly for women.  Although women still do not go online as often as men, the study says, they are more likely than men to use email to stay in touch with family and friends and for building their deepest relationships.

Women are also more likely to seek health and religious information, look for jobs and play games online, while men are more likely to go online for news, stock quotes, sports and product information.

The study, which was funded by a $5.9 million grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts, was based on daily random March telephone interviews with 3,533 adults, of whom 1,690 were Internet users.

The margin of error for results from the Internet users was 3 percent.

The daily polling of Internet users by the study group will continue for much of the next two years, Rainie said.

http://www.pewinternet.org

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