The digital divide in cell phone ownership and use

Posted by reyjunco on April 12, 2010 in Research |

The following is a summary of findings from a paper that will be published soon in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. For the analyses, we used logistic and hierarchical linear regression to examine the results of a survey of 4,491 students from four universities. Here’s what we found:

Cell phone ownership

  • The odds that female and White students owned cell phones were over twice as high as men and African American students.
  • Students from the $100,000-$149,000/year income bracket were over three times as likely to own a cell phone than a student from the middle income bracket.

Cell phone use

  • Female, African American, and students from income brackets above $150,000/year sent more text messages.
  • Female, Latino, African American, and students from income brackets above $150,000/year spent more time talking on their phones.

Summary of implications

  • There are significant differences in ownership and use of cell phones.
  • Gender differences are congruent with previous research on the use of communication technologies.
  • Effect of ethnicity could be because minority students are using cell phones to keep in touch with family and friends in order to help them adjust to majority-White universities.

You can download a pdf of the paper here: Junco, R., Merson, D. & Salter, D. W. (in press). The effect of gender, ethnicity, and income on college students’ use of communication technologies. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.

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  • I find this especially interesting, because I work at a tribal college and a study that was done a couple of years ago (before I worked there) found that almost all of our students have cell phones, regardless of socio-economic status or ethnicity. Anyway, I just thought this was interesting considering the findings of your study. But for our students, it is culturally important for them to stay in touch with their families and home community, so that may explain the difference.

  • Did they publish that study? I'd love to read it. I think that is congruent not only with our findings, but Pew's as well: http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2009/12-Wire

  • They did not publish it. But I found it interesting, because almost all of our students are Pell eligible, so clearly, having a cell phone is a enormous priority among limited financial resources. Thanks for sharing the Pew study. Interesting stuff.

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