One in Four Young Adults Has No Landline

We know this seems like an odd agency to be conducting a survey of telephone usage, but the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued the results of its National Health Interview Survey (PDF) that 25.2 percent of U.S. adults aged 18 to 24 years live in households which only use wireless telephones—and that number jumps to nearly 30 percent of adults aged 25 to 29.

Overall, the CDC found that at least 12.8 percent of households do not have a traditional landline phone, but many did have a wireless phone. Overall, 11.6 percent of all U.S. children lived in households which only have wireless telephones.

Why does the CDC care about this? The number of households which can only be reached by mobile phones has important implications for emergency services (like fire, police, and ambulance services), 911 operations, as well as many government organizations.

As a side note, it also has important implications for government and private polling organizations—companies like Nielsen Research, NPD, Forrester, Gallup, and others who conduct some surveys via telephone. Those surveys typically only poll within wired phone exchanges, meaning they may be omitting a significant portion of the population from their surveys—which, in turn, makes their results less reliable.

(In case you’re curious, the CDC surveyed 13,056 households between June and December 2006, and phone data was selected from 10,888 adults.)

The CDC found that users who rely solely on mobile phones are disproportionately likely to have lower incomes and be young. Some 22 percent of the poorest adults surveyed only had mobile phones, fully double the rate amongst higher income individuals. The CDC also found variation by gender and race: 15 percent of Hispanic adults, 13 percent of black adults, 12 percent of Asians, and 11 percent of whites reported only using cell phones; 13 percent of makes and 11 percent of females reported being mobile-only.

And 2 percent of U.S. adults surveyed? No phone at all.

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