Cell-Only Households Now the Majority As Landline Owners Continue to Recede

May 12, 2017

This article is included in these additional categories:

Boomers & Older | Mobile Phone | Youth & Gen X

As mobile phone use becomes more widespread, the latest report [pdf] released by the US National Health Information Survey (NHIS) reveals that American households are continuing to abandon their landlines and go wireless-only. In fact, the percentage of wireless-only households finally broke through the halfway point in H2 2016, up almost 10 points over 3 years to 50.8% of all households.

At the same time, the share of homes with a landline phone (either with or without an accompanying cellphone) decreased from 56.3% to 45.9%.

As a result of these trends, the – bare – majority (50.5%) of US adults now live in households with wireless service only.

This has obvious implications for the market research industry, which is already facing dissatisfied survey-takers on phones and which is shifting more and more towards mobile surveys.

Meanwhile, the percentage of children living in wireless-only households is also growing, up from 47.1% in H2 2013 to 60.7% in H2 2016, while the percentage of children living in households with a landline has fallen from 50.2% to 36.1% in that period.

As may be expected, younger Americans are most likely to be living in wireless-only households, per the NHIS report. Almost three-quarters (72.7%) of 25-29-year-olds and 71.0% of 30-34-year-olds live in cell-only households. More than 6 in 10 18-24-year olds and adults aged 35-44 likewise report going without a landline. A different report corroborates that older Millennials have a substantially higher incidence of living in cell-only households than their younger counterparts, who may be more likely to be living with their parents.

Older Americans have been less likely to loosen their grip on the landline: fewer than one-quarter (23.5%) of adults aged 65 and older live in wireless-only households. Despite the implication that older Americans have not fully embraced cell phone use, that isn’t necessarily the case (the CDC report doesn’t break out the percentage of landline phone homes that also have a cell-phone by age). In fact, according to a recent Nielsen survey, about 80% of those aged 55-64 and 68% of those 65 and older, now own a smartphone.

Other Findings:

  • Per the NHIS Report, more than four in five of adults living only with unrelated adult roommates were in households with only wireless phones. This is the highest prevalence rate for any of the population subgroups examined.
  • Renters were much more likely to have only wireless phones (71.5%) than homeowners or those living with homeowners (40.9%).
  • Adults living in poverty (66.3%) were far more likely than adults who were not poor (48.5%) to be living in wireless-only households.
  • Hispanic adults (64.8%) were more likely than non-Hispanic white adults (46.6%) or non-Hispanic black adults (52.1%) to be living in households with only wireless phones.
  • Nearly 2 in 5 people living in households with both landline and cell phones received all or almost all calls on their cell phones, which consisted of 15% of total households.

About the Data: From July through December 2016, the CDC obtained information on household telephone status for 19,956 households that included at least one civilian adult or child. These households included 36,828 civilian adults aged 18 and over and 11,437 children under age 18.

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