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Digital divide separates white, minority students

WASHINGTON -- Many more white children use the Internet than do Hispanic and black students, a reminder that going online is hardly a way of life for everyone, a federal study has found.

Two of three white students, or 67 percent, use the Internet, but less than half of blacks and Hispanics do, according to federal data released yesterday. For Hispanics the figure is 44 percent; for blacks, it's 47 percent.

``This creates incredible barriers for minorities," said Mark Lloyd, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and a specialist on how communications influence civil rights.

Not using the Internet ``narrows their ability to even think about the kind of work they can be doing," Lloyd said.

The new data come from the National Center for Education Statistics, an arm of the Education Department. It is based on a national representative survey of households in 2003.

Overall, 91 percent of students in nursery school through 12th grade use computers; 59 percent use the Internet.

Almost all US schools are connected to the Internet. The gaps in Internet usage between whites and minorities, though sizable, are smaller during the school day.

A total of 54 percent of white students use the Internet at home, compared with 26 percent of Hispanic and 27 percent of black children. Limited access can erode a student's research on assignments or college scholarships.

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