Ethnic Differences in Internet Access: The Role of Occupation and Exposure
Gustavo Mesch & Ilan Talmud (In press). Information, Communication & Society
Internet adoption expanded rapidly in recent years and its use is been associated with the formation of social networks, the accumulation of social capital and a wage premium. Thus, lack of Internet access might reflect past social inequalities and lead to its amplification. The purpose of the current study was to investigate the sources of ethnic differential access to the Internet. The central assumption is that in deeply divided societies, where there is a partial, but significant, overlap between ethnicity and the occupational structure, disadvantaged minorities lack digital access, as they are concentrated in occupations that are not exposed to computers and the Internet. The hypotheses were tested with a representative sample of the Israeli population, a deeply divided society according to ethnic lines. The findings indicate that Arab Israelis are less likely to have access to the Internet because they are concentrated in blue-collar occupations that are not exposed at work to computers and the Internet. Furthermore, lack of exposure foments the development of negative attitudes to technology that presumably defer them from adopting the Internet. The implications of the findings for the replication of digital inequalities in society are discussed.
An earlier version of the study can be downloaded at