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Americans Abandoning Landlines

December 18, 2009

Recently compiled data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that the recession may be accelerating the change in how Americans communicate.  In a surprising trend, it seems that more people of all income classes are responding to the economically challenging times by ditching traditional landlines and going totally cellular.

The study also found that phone preferences tend to vary more along the lines of age and geographic location than between socioeconomic categories.  Researchers pointed to the fact that the percentage of wireless-only households continues to grow steadily across all income brackets and has more than doubled since early 2006.

“I think it indicates that economic considerations are not the primary considerations when deciding to drop a landline and become wireless only,” Stephen Blumberg, co-author of the report and senior researcher for the CDC, told the ASsociated Press.

“We see [that] where people live, who they live with and how old they are stronger predictors than income.”

Today, nearly a quarter of all American households have only cell phones compared with just over 10 percent in the first half of 2006 before the current financial crisis hit.

In households classified as “poor,” the percentage of exclusively cell phone homes has skyrocketed from 16 percent to roughly 33 percent in the last three years. Nearly identical trends were observed for families that fell into the “nearly poor” and “not poor” categories, which jumped from 14 to 27 percent and 9 to 19 percent, respectively.

CDC researchers used federally-established guidelines for classifying survey participants as “poor,” “near poor,” or “not poor.” A single individual earning less than $11,000 a year or a family of four making less than $22,000 a year fall under the “poor” rubric, while those making up to double those amounts were classified as “nearly poor.”

While nearly 60 percent of American families still have both a landline and a cell phone, less than 20 percent have only a landline, while only about 2 percent have no phone at all.

The age of the household proved to be a significant factor in predicting its telephonic situation.  Nearly half of adults between the ages of 25 to 29 lived in a cell-only abode, while only 22 percent of those in the 35 to 44 range could say the same.

As previous studies have shown, people living in the Southern and Midwestern states were more likely to be landline-free than their coastal counterparts, while adults living alone or sharing quarters with unrelated roommates were also far likelier to have only a cell phone that families.

The data for the study was compiled from the National Health Interview Survey, a project of the CDC. The most recent survey reflects data from a survey of 12,447 households between January and June of this year.

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