Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Milepost: 2 in 5 US Households are "cellphone-only"

The proportion of US households who only have wireless phones passed 40% in 2013, according to a report from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.  Furthermore, it would seem that the cell phone has replaced the land line as the "lifeline" for the poor and for families with children.  The report also shows that younger folks are also high adopters of the wireless-only lifestyle.

  The report found that 56% of "poor" households and 46% of the "nearly poor" are cell-only; furthermore, almost half (47.1%)of all children live in wireless-only households.
  Demographically, it's no surprise that older age groups are most likely to maintain their land lines even after acquiring cell phones - only 14% of those 65 or older are wireless-only, while roughly a third (31%) of those 45-64 have abandoned landlines to go wireless.  In contrast, two-thirds of those 25-29 reported being wireless-only. Hispanics reported the highest level of wireless-only households, at 53.1%.  Those households living in the Northeast were the least likely to be wireless-only, with just under a quarter (24.9%) without land lines.

These results fit several of the current memes on the diffusion and adoption of telephone service:
  • mobile households are more likely to rely on mobile services, particularly those who change physical addresses.
  • lower income households are less likely to maintain multiple services (the interesting note here is that cell services are becoming cheaper than land lines)
  • households with multiple wireless users are more likely to go with individual mobile lines than a "family" land line
There are also policy implications of the switch.  If cell phones are increasingly becoming the telephonic lifeline for people, there should be a shift in Universal Service policy and promotion from traditional land lines to mobile services.  Or from the CDC's perspective, making sure that health campaigns embrace mobile.

Sources:   Two of every five U.S. households have only wireless phones, Pew FactTank
Wireless Substitution: Early Release of Estimates From the National Health Interview Survey, July-December 2013, CDC National Center for Health Statistics report

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