The Facebook data analysis team recently finished taking a hard look at the diversity statistics for the more than 94 million users who live in the United States. (Fun fact: There are more than 350 million users worldwide, making Facebook a larger “country” than the U.S.)

Ethnic Makeup Of Facebook Users

The data team dove deeply into the numbers and used a range of tools to make sure that they were doing their best to remove bias and error. The chief tools they used are statistical breakdowns of ethnicity and last names. Their report goes into detail about the methods they used and while one can quibble with things here and there, it appears overall reasonable.

The upshot: “We discovered that Facebook has always been diverse and that the diversity has increased significantly over the past year to the point where U.S. Facebook users nearly mirror the diversity of the overall population of the country.”

The graph illustrates this. The dotted lines represent the distribution of various (nonwhite) ethnicities in the overall Internet population, while the solid lines represent U.S. Facebook users:

From Facebook

From Facebook

You can see that each solid line is trending toward its corresponding dotted line — implying that the ethnic distribution within Facebook is moving, over time, to match the distribution of general Internet users.

Ethnicity Of Internet Users Vs. All Americans

Note that the Facebook analysis team is comparing  their statistics to Internet users, not U.S. population as a whole. That raises the question, how do the Internet penetration rates map onto the ethnic makeup of the U.S.?

The answer is that with overall Internet adoption reaching 80%, Facebook’s statistics tend to roughly mirror the U.S. population that is  online, but that the digital divides persist. That’s because Internet use does not distribute across the population in the same way for each ethnicity.

According to the latest data from the Pew Internet And American Life Project, penetration rates are higher among whites (80% of Non-Hispanic Whites are online) than among Blacks (72% are online) and Hispanics (61% online).

Here’s another way to look at it, using data from NetRoots Nation and from the U.S. Census:

Internet Penetration Compared To Ethnic Distribution

Internet Penetration Compared To Ethnic Distribution

In other words, White Non-Hispanics are slightly over-represented online, while other ethnicities are slightly underrepresented. Hispanics show the widest gap.

(Note that I am comparing households and individuals here, so the numbers aren’t precisely comparable, but they illustrate the point.)

The Real Digital Divide

While there are very real divisions in the United States when it comes to race and ethnicity, when it comes to the “Digital Divide,” a larger driver is economics and education (which itself is in large part driven by economics).

For instance, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 94% of college graduates are online, while just 72% of high-school only Americans are. And for adults with less than high school the online rate is just 37%.

And, while 95% of people who make more than $75K per year are online, the number drops to 62% for those who make less than $30K.

The suggests an interesting avenue for the Facebook team to pursue, which is a study of economic and education data as it relates to Facebook users.