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The number of households with cell phones increased from 36 percent to 71 percent between 1998 and 2005, according to new data released by the U.S. Census Bureau. This corresponded with a decrease in households with telephone landlines, particularly households headed by young adults.
These figures are part of an in-depth look at the living standards of U.S. households using extended measures of well-being. The data were collected in 2005 as part of the ongoing Survey of Income and Program Participation. The survey is unique because it allows the user to track select quality of life measures over time using a variety of demographic characteristics.
"While income is generally regarded as the best single measure of one's living standard, it doesn't give us the whole picture," said Tiffany Julian, an analyst in the Census Bureau's Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division. "This survey is unique in that it includes additional measures of well-being that give us a broader look at household living conditions."
Householders who were 29 or younger went from 35 percent with cell phones in 1998 to 81 percent in 2005. Over the same period, this same group saw a decrease in ownership of landline phones from 93 percent to 71 percent.
Landline phone ownership fell from 96 percent to 91 percent overall from 1998 to 2005. In 2005, 98 percent of householders who were 65 and over had a landline telephone.
The number of households with a personal computer increased from 42 percent to 67 percent between 1998 and 2005. Those who were least likely to own a computer in 2005 were the elderly, those in poverty and those without a high school diploma.
Among the indicators in this survey that measure quality of life are possession of appliances and electronic goods, housing conditions, neighborhood conditions, public services and the ability to meet basic needs, such as paying bills, avoiding foreclosure and having sufficient food.
Some of the household characteristics in this survey include race, Hispanic origin, age, income, poverty status and type (e.g., family, nonfamily, married, nonmarried, etc.).
To determine who is in poverty, the Census Bureau uses a set of income thresholds that vary by family size and composition.