There are 23 counties in the United States with a population that is at least 70% Black. In those 23 majority-Black counties, an average 36% of households don’t have Internet access.
Most of the counties are in Mississippi, and the others are located in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia. The county with the least Internet access is Holmes County, Mississippi. The population is 84% Black, and about 50% of households do not have Internet access. Among these counties with majority Black populations, Hinds County in Mississippi, with a 73% Black population, only has 19% of households without Internet access.
The data is from a map created by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The interactive graphic maps out a variety of broadband-related demographics across the country, including households that lack Internet access and households that don’t have computers, smartphones or tablets. There’s also the ability to add a layer that pins the locations of predominantly Black institutions and historically Black colleges and universities.
“As we release this important data to the public, it paints a sobering view of the challenges facing far too many Americans as they try to connect to high-speed broadband and participate in our modern economy,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo said in a statement. “In his American Jobs Plan, President Biden has proposed a once-in-a-lifetime investment that would finally connect one hundred percent of the country to reliable and affordable high-speed broadband.”
However, in the 14 counties where the lack of Internet access is above 50%, the majority are largely white areas. Only two of these counties have a higher percentage of Black residents than white residents.
As another school year begins under worrisome pandemic conditions, many parents are caught between the fear of their child being exposed to the virus at school and the return to lackluster virtual schooling. On top of virtual school not satisfying many needs, access to the Internet — or a strong Internet connection — is another strain for many families. The digital divide was further exposed last year when schools were forced to be entirely online.
A recent study from the University of Missouri, called “Sink or Swim: Virtual Life Challenges among African American Families during COVID-19 Lockdown,” found that Black families were frustrated by a lack of digital resources in the shift to online schooling.
“The pandemic exposed some of the disparities that existed and increased it,” Adaobi Anakwe, a post-doctoral fellow at the university who is lead author on the study, said to the Columbia Daily Tribune. “Everyone was forced to migrate over to digital technology.”