A new publication from the CDC, sent along by sociology professor Sangyoub Park, reports that only 13% of households in the U.S. are still cell phone-free; meanwhile, 27% of households have now abandoned their landline telephone altogether. The data, however, varies pretty tremendously by state. Rhode Island and New Jersey have the lowest proportion of wireless-only households at 13%, while Arkansas leads with 35%:
For more detail, here are the states in order:
Dr. Park wondered if part of what was driving the state-by-state difference was levels of poverty. Perhaps poorer families can’t afford both a landline and a cell phone and so they drop the former. A rough comparison of the data with rates of poverty in various states is suggestive (source):
So that’s interesting. But why does the CDC care? One way to collect survey data is to get a random selection of Americans (or some subset) through random digit dialings. These, however, tend to exclude cell phones. So the technological change is creating a methodological challenge. Now scholars using random digit dialing have to consider how the exclusion of 27% of households with cell phones only skews their data, perhaps by disproportionately excluding the poor. It’s a much more difficult case to make than when such methods excluded only the 2% of households with no phone service at all.
Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.