Landline Phone Penetration Dwindles as Cell-Only Households Grow

July 6, 2012

This article is included in these additional categories:

African-American | Boomers & Older | Hispanic | Men | Mobile Phone | Telecom | Women | Youth & Gen X

cdc-us-household-phone-status-h12008-h22011-jul2012.pngMobile phones (and particularly smartphones) are growing in popularity, and survey data [pdf] released in June by the US National Health Information Survey (NHIS) reveals that more and more American households are abandoning their landlines and going wireless-only. In fact, from H1 2008 to H2 2011, the proportion of wireless-only households almost doubled, from 17.5% to 34%. At the same time, the percentage of homes with a landline phone (either with or without an accompanying cellphone) decreased from 79.1% to 63.6%.

The percentage of children living in wireless-only households is also growing, up from 17% in H1 2008 to 38.1% in H2 2011, while the percentage of children living in households with a landline has fallen from 80% to 59.5% in that period. This drop is reflected in American teens’ communication habits. According to a Pew report released in March 2012, just 14% of all teens said they talk to friends on a landline phone on a daily basis, down from 30% in 2009. At the same time, 31% said they never talk to friends on a landline, up from 19% who indicated this in 2009.

Americans without landline phones are also more likely to have cut the TV cord, according to June 2012 survey results from Among respondents who had discarded their landline phone, 36% have cut the cable cord, compared to 16% who maintain their landlines.

Youth Most Likely to Forgo Landlines

Unsurprisingly, younger Americans are most likely to be living in wireless-only households, per the NHIS report. 59.6% of 25-29-year-olds live in cell-only households, while 50.9% of 30-34-year-olds and 48.6% of 18-24-year-olds also report going without a landline. As age increases from 35 years, the percentage of adults living in households with only wireless telephones decreases: 36.8% for adults aged 35-44; 23.8% for adults aged 45-64; and 8.5% for adults aged 65 and older.

Despite the implication that older Americans are not comfortable with cell-phones, 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 survey results released in July by Perion, although almost 9 in 10 of the more than close to 3,000 Americans surveyed over 45 say that they are slow to adopt technology, roughly 8 in 10 say they find technology fun and enjoy new gadgets, and 89% will use technology if it’s better than what they use today. It is worth noting, however, that Perion surveyed users of its email client – meaning that respondents were already comfortable with email, potentially skewing the sample. According to June 2012 survey results from Pew, 53% of US seniors (aged over 65) were online as of April 2012.

Other Findings:

  • Per the CDC report, in H2 2011, men (33.7%) were more likely than women (30.9%) to be living in households with only wireless phones.
  • More than three-quarters 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.
  • Adults living in poverty (51.4%) were far more likely than adults who were not poor (28.9%) to be living in wireless-only households.
  • Hispanic adults (43.3%) were more likely than non-Hispanic white adults (29%) or non-Hispanic black adults (36.8%) to be living in households with only wireless phones.

About the Data: From July through December 2011, the CDC obtained information on household telephone status for 19,311 households that included at least one civilian adult or child. These households included 36,564 civilian adults aged 18 and over and 13,028 children under age 18.

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