It may sound like a silly joke, but do you know how to tell if a Latino was born in the United States or foreign-born?

The answer may be to look at how often they go online or use cell phones. U.S.-native Latinos do it much more than foreign-born Hispanics — with assimilation and English skills apparently leading to more use of technology.

In fact, the Pew Hispanic Center calls it the "Latino Digital Divide" in two reports it released Wednesday.

"Technology use among foreign-born Latinos continues to lag significantly behind that of their U.S.-born counterparts," said one report based on a nationwide telephone survey of Hispanics.

For example, "while 85 percent of native-born Latinos ages 16 and older go online, only about half (51 percent) of foreign-born Latinos do so," according to the report. And 80 percent of native-born Latinos use cell phones, compared with 72 percent of those who are foreign-born.

Gretchen Livingston, senior researcher for the Pew Hispanic Center, wrote that the Internet gap among Hispanics "is due in part to the fact that the native-born are younger on average than their foreign-born counterparts."

But gaps appear even among people in the same age groups, suggesting other factors cause the divide as well, Livingston said. Her study said the more assimilated a Latino is in U.S. culture, by time in the nation or skill with English, the more he or she uses technology.

The study found that English proficiency is closely linked with Internet use. It said 87 percent of Latinos who speak mostly English go online, compared with 77 percent who speak roughly equal amounts of English and Spanish, and just 35 percent of Latinos who speak mostly Spanish.

A second study found that young Latinos ages 16 to 25 make extensive used of mobile technology. Half say they text their friends daily, and 45 percent say they talk daily on a cell phone.

In contrast, only 18 percent say they talk daily with friends by using a landline, and just 10 percent say they e-mail their friends daily.

e-mail: lee@desnews.com