I couldn't even begin to explain why this is so, but according to a survey by Nielsen Research, smartphone ownership in the U.S. is higher "among mobile users who are part of ethnic and racial minorities." (Also see: U.S. smartphone market a tightening 3-way race) Nielsen found that, as of December, nearly one in three (31%) of mobile consumers in the U.S. owned smartphones. But check out the ethnic breakdown: Hispanics -- 45% Asian/Pacific Islanders -- 45% African-Americans -- 33% Whites -- 27% Don Kellogg, Nielsen's senior manager of telecom research and insights, notes that these ethnic populations "tend to skew younger." He may be right, though I'd like to see some data on that. The percentage of Asians and whites who in Q4 purchased smartphones over the previous six months increased from Q3. Forty-two percent of whites in Q4 bought smartphones in the previous six months, versus 37% in Q3. For Asians, the percentage rose to 60% in Q4 from 57% in the third quarter. However, those six-month percentages were flat for African-Americans (44% from 45%) and Hispanics (56% in both Q3 and Q4). I'm just taking a stab at it, but this might indicate that the sluggish economy is hurting those two ethnic groups more than whites and Asians. Finally, check out the Nielsen graphic below: As you can see, Asians are big into iPhones, which were owned by 36% of that ethnic group with smartphones in the fourth quarter, while African-Americans had a marked preference for Research in Motion's BlackBerry (31%). Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.