Just as minority composition and economic conditions differ from state to state, so too does the width of the digital divide. According to a new Technographics® Brief from Forrester Research, Inc. (Nasdaq: FORR), efforts to bring Hispanic- and African-Americans online should focus on Southern states where they fall furthest behind.

Three categories of states emerge when the width of the digital divide between Caucasians and the largest ethnic minority in each state is examined. The Deeply Divided category consists of 16 states where Internet adoption by the state’s largest minorities — Hispanic- and African-Americans — trails Caucasians by a wider margin than the US average. Texas, Tennessee, and California are among the most divided.

The Divided category consists of 14 states that cluster around the US average for online penetration. When compared with Caucasians, African- and Hispanic-Americans fare best in the Narrowly Divided group of nine states, which includes Ohio, Washington, and New Jersey.

Forrester’s survey reveals that the digital divide is not driven by ethnicity but by disparities in each group’s income, age, technology optimism, and education — the same drivers that separate the three categories of states. Seven out of the 10 states with the lowest median incomes for African-Americans are Deeply Divided. Young consumers’ higher technology optimism makes them likelier early adopters, giving Hispanic- and Asian-Americans an edge. In Deeply Divided Southern states, Caucasians are 19% more likely than African-Americans and 32% more likely than Hispanic-Americans to have graduated from college.

Jay Stanley, analyst in Internet Policy & Regulation research at Forrester is announcing findings from this Brief as they apply to Florida at a press conference and luncheon today with Gov. Jeb Bush in Tallahassee. Gov. Bush will announce a new statewide technology access initiative called PowerUp, a partnership designed to give underserved youth access to technology and guidance on how to use it.

“Florida is one of the states in which the digital divide is most pervasive among African-Americans, with only 26% online,” said Stanley. “Legislators should fund alternatives to home access — making the Internet available in schools, libraries, and workplaces of all types.”

Forrester’s Technographics 2000 Benchmark Study of more than 80,000 US households exposed a digital divide — the gap between the Internet haves and have nots — in which Asian- and Hispanic-Americans lead other groups in technology adoption. Minorities in 11 states were not adequately represented in the Forrester survey.