The blogging community is more racially diverse than one might think. Internet-connected African Americans are more likely to blog than their white and Hispanic counterparts, according to new research from the University of California, Berkeley.
While African Americans as a whole are less likely to afford laptops and personal computers, Internet-savvy blacks, on average, blog one and a half times to nearly twice as much as whites, while Hispanics blog at the same rate as whites, according to a study published in the March online issue of the journal, Information, Communication & Society.
"Blacks consume less online content, but once online, are more likely to produce it," said the study's author, Jen Schradie, a doctoral candidate in sociology at UC Berkeley and a researcher at the campus's Berkeley Center for New Media.
Schradie analyzed data from more than 40,000 Americans surveyed between 2002 and 2008 for the Pew Internet and American Life Project, which tracks Internet use and social media trends. Her latest findings follow up on a 2011 study in which Schradie found a "digital divide" among online content producers based on education and socio-economic status. While her latest study echoes earlier findings that blogs, websites and video-sharing sites represent the perspectives of college-educated, Web 2.0-savvy users, it sheds new light on the racial breakdown of those producing online content.
But, she said, "While blacks are more likely to blog than whites, it doesn't mean the digital divide is over. People with more income and education are still more likely to blog than those with just a high school education and Internet access."
On average, about 10 percent of blacks are likely to blog, compared to 6 percent of whites, according to surveys taken during that seven-year period. And that figure steadily rose, with 17 percent of blacks likely to blog in 2008, compared to 9 percent of whites.
During that period, free online blogging platforms such as Blogger, WordPress and Tumblr, became widely available to the public. And while longer form blogs have been eclipsed in recent years by such micro-blogging tools as Twitter and Facebook, they continue to populate the digital landscape at a steady rate, the study notes.
The study did not look into why African Americans might blog at higher rates than whites and Hispanics, which Schradie says is a topic for further exploration. But it notes that: "Perhaps, African Americans, who have been marginalized from the mainstream news media, now have a platform for participation and are more likely to blog."
Spokespeople for political and community organizing groups such as the ColorOfChange.org have posited that social media are a natural extension of the word-of-mouth communication traditions used in African American communities.
"Ultimately, the study shows that class inequality is perpetuating the digital divide in social media," Schradie said. "Race matters, but not the way we think it does."