July 8, 2014

CDC: Two of every five U.S. households have only wireless phones

wirelessOnlyMore Americans than ever have cut the (telephone) cord, but the growth rate of wireless-only households slowed last year.

About two-in-five (41%) of U.S. households had only wireless phones in the second half of 2013, according to a report released today by the National Center for Health Statistics. The center, the statistical arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, estimated that 39.1% of adults and 47.1% of children lived in wireless-only households.

The share of wireless-only households was 2.8 percentage points higher than the same period in 2012. That’s slower than in previous years. In 2010, the wireless-only share grew by 5.2 percentage points; 4.3 percentage points in 2011; and 4.2 percentage points in 2012.

As one might expect, young adults are the most likely to be living the wireless-only lifestyle. Nearly two-thirds (65.7%) of 25- to 29-year-olds, 59.7% of 30- to 34-year-olds, and 53% of 18- to 24-year-olds live in wireless-only households, according to the center. However, those percentages are little changed — and in some cases even below — those recorded in the first half of 2013.

However, as more people in older age brackets go wireless-only, the stereotype of cord-cutters as footloose Millennials is becoming less accurate. In the second half of 2010, more than half (52.5%) of people in wireless-only households were aged 18-34; in the most recent report, only 45.5% were.

A majority (56.2%) of poor households have no landline service, the only economic group for which that’s true. Hispanics were the racial/ethnic group that was most likely to be wireless-only — 53.1% lived in households with no landline phone.

People in the Northeast were considerably less likely than residents of other regions to be wireless-only. Just a quarter (24.9%) of Northeasterners reported living in households with no landline phone, versus more than 40% in the Midwest, West and South. An analysis last year of first-half 2013 data found that Idaho had the highest percentage of wireless-only households — 52.3% — while New Jersey had the lowest at 19.4%.

Topics: Technology Adoption, Mobile

  1. Photo of Drew DeSilver

    is a senior writer at Pew Research Center.


  1. Kelly Rusinack1 year ago

    I live in a rural area, where there are fewer cell towers to access. My home, in particular, is pretty much a dead zone about 80% of the time for cell phones. Even phone and cable companies have to use my landline when doing work here because their phones become useless. I’ve given in to one “modern” phone , in that my phone is VOIP, so it is down when the electricity is down – which happens out here in the country. My cell phones are Tracfones – cheap, and you can’t get your name or address attached to them (for 9-1-1 & caller id purposes). I’ve had neighbors who only have cell phones come to my house and ask to use my landline because the calls they need to make just can’t be done with a cell phone. Cell phones have too many shortcomings, especially depending on your locale.

  2. Pat Brown3 years ago

    Until wireless companies address all dead zone cell service areas, they must keep landlines working for safety sake!

  3. Paul3 years ago

    Why is CDC funding this sort of thing? Are they still on the “cell phones cause brain cancer” kick? I can’t see another link. No wonder so many people think government is too big.

    1. BJB3 years ago

      I work in public health preparedness and response for a state health department. This is important data for us because cell numbers are not automatically a part of reverse-911 networks. We hope that everyone registers their cell phones with their county’s emergency notification system (most counties do have them – check your county’s website). That is probably why CDC is funding this research – and we are glad they do.

  4. Patricia3 years ago

    Will never give up my land line. Power outage can be a disaster. Our EMT team was here in a matter of minutes because our land line gave them the address. They were on their way even before my 911 call was over. Timing was critical in this case!

    1. slk3 years ago

      hope everyone is ok!!!

  5. William Long3 years ago

    This is one significant reason that polling data has been increasingly erratic, inaccurate and skewed toward the opinions and intentions of the older generations.