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It’s 2017 And The Majority Of U.S. Homes Have Ditched The Landline

But there are good reasons some people keep them even if they own a cell phone

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May 05, 2017 at 10:51 AM ET

Researchers have discovered that the majority of U.S. homes today do not have a landline, instead relying on cell phones alone. New data from 2016, which has been tracked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, indicates that nearly 51 percent of U.S. homes are cell phone-only, and that these homes have specific health habits.

In an interview with NPR, Stephen Blumberg, the lead researcher of this biannual survey, said that, “People who are wireless-only are more likely to smoke, they’re more likely to binge-drink, [and] they’re more likely to be uninsured.” Even accounting for age, looking only at young people, these differences remained true.

While it’s hard to say why this correlation exists, researchers consider income to be a possible factor. Adults in poverty or near-poverty, who rent their homes, are younger, and/or are Hispanic are more likely to be landline-less. Geographically, those in the South, West, and Midwest were more likely than those in the Northeast to still have a landline. City-dwellers were also more likely to have cut the landline cord.

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The reason that this data is tracked by the CDC, according to Blumberg, is largely incidental, or at least it was when the agency first began studying this in 2003. The CDC has been conducting surveys via telephone for the past 34 years, and realized that the increasing number of landline-less households were being excluded from the dataset. In order to find the segment of the population that fell into this category, it then began including questions concerning household phone use in its in-person National Health Interview Survey.

Though the study does not delve into reasons people are forsaking their landlines, anecdotal interviews with the AP reveal a variety of reasons the minority has for keeping them around. Some cited poor cell reception at home, requirements from phone companies that mandate customers have a landline to get internet service, and cheaper package discounts.

As to whether or not Americans should have a landline, there are several arguments to be made. Landline phones are recommended for calling emergency services. Even if the caller is unable to speak or does not know the address (for example, a choking person or child) emergency services can use the landline to trace the address. Cell phone GPS used to trace 911 calls are less precise. Whether or not this is a good enough reason to bear the annoying telemarketing calls landline phones are susceptible to is a matter up for debate.