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Posted by on Dec 13, 2010 in Epidemiology, Health care

The Golden Age of Wireless

The Golden Age of Wireless


As someone who’s recently cut the landline cord, I wondered how many other Americans are tossing the samelike a vintage Broderick Crawford rotary phone. The answer: a lot. And who’s keeping tabs on this information? The CDC.

According to the Centers’ most recent information, published last spring, the percentage of American households relying solely on wireless coverage has increased from about 10% in the first half of 2006 to about 24% in the last half of 2009 (see the CDC’s impressive growth table below). Yes, about 1 in 4 homes (as of 1 year ago) use cell phones exclusively.

An expected outcome of the CDC’s ongoing survey: sole reliance on cell phone use is age dependent, with only about 15% of cell-phone users aged 45-64 years without a landline. Among individuals aged 65 years or older, that percentage drops to about 5%.


Other factors that increased the likelihood of going completely wireless (which, in some cases, are probably age dependent):

  • living with unrelated adult roommates
  • renting (vs owning)
  • being male
  • living in or near poverty
  • not living in the Northeast
  • being Hispanic

Why does the CDC care about the wireless trend? Because the CDC, like many other organizations, collects much of its health survey data by phone. The Centers’ admonition:

The potential for bias due to undercoverage is not the only threat to surveys conducted on landline telephones. Researchers are also concerned that some people living in households with landlines cannot be reached on those landlines because they rely on wireless telephones for all or almost all of their calls.  

bmartin (1127 Posts)

A native East Tennessean, Barbara Martin is a formerly practicing, board-certified neurologist who received her BS (psychology, summa cum laude) and MD from Duke University before completing her postgraduate training (internship, residency, fellowship) at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. She has worked in academia, private practice, medical publishing, drug market research, and continuing medical education (CME). For the last 3 years, she has worked in a freelance capacity as a medical writer, analyst, and consultant. Follow Dr. Barbara Martin on and Twitter.


  1. Appreciate the shout-out re/ Broderick Crawford! You would think that SOMEWHERE out there on the web, there is an image of a beet-faced Broderick Crawford, bellowing into a shiny, black, bakelite rotary phone. Well, I looked…and nada. This was as close as I came:
    Ironically, he’s using a wireless technology. Sort of.
    Digging further, I was surprised to discover that Mr. Crawford’s autograph was …shall we say…festive:
    At this point I concluded my research, fearing that I would discover that he was transgender or something equally wrong.

  2. Not that being transgender is wrong generally–but that it would be wrong in the case of Broderick Crawford.
    BTW, props for mentioning Bakelite, a trademark of Union Carbide Corp.