Racial/ethnic and income disparities in neighborhood-level broadband access in 905 US cities, 2017–2021

Y. Li, B. R. Spoer, T. M. Lampe, P. Y. Hsieh, I. S. Nelson, A. Vierse, L. E. Thorpe, M. N. Gourevitch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Broadband access is an essential social determinant of health, the importance of which was made apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic. We sought to understand disparities in broadband access within cities and identify potential solutions to increase urban access. Study design: This was a descriptive secondary analysis using multi-year cross-sectional survey data. Methods: Data were obtained from the City Health Dashboard and American Community Survey. We studied broadband access in 905 large US cities, stratifying neighborhood broadband access by neighborhood median household income and racial/ethnic composition. Results: In 2017, 30% of urban households across 905 large US cities did not have access to high-speed broadband internet. After controlling for median household income, broadband access in majority Black and Hispanic neighborhoods was 10–15% lower than in majority White or Asian neighborhoods. Over time, lack of broadband access in urban households decreased from 30% in 2017 to 24% in 2021, but racial and income disparities persisted. Conclusions: As an emerging social determinant, broadband access impacts health across the life course, affecting students' ability to learn and adults’ ability to find and retain jobs. Resolving lack of broadband access remains an urban priority. City policymakers can harness recent infrastructure funding opportunities to reduce broadband access disparities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-211
Number of pages7
JournalPublic Health
StatePublished - Apr 2023


  • Health disparities
  • Minority health
  • Social Determinants of Health
  • Urban health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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