Study: 20% of U.S. teens lack basic financial literacy

Americans of all ages fail to understand rudimentary principles

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The number of Americans living in households without traditional land-line telephones continues to grow, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the second half of 2013, 41 percent of U.S. households relied solely on a wireless phone, researchers from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics reported Tuesday. That’s up from 38.2 percent in the second half of 2012, 34 percent in the second half of 2011 and 29.7 percent in the second half of 2010.

These wireless-only households included 93 million adults and nearly 35 million children, according to the study. That works out to 39.1 percent of American adults and 47.1 percent of American kids as of the second half of 2013.

Millions more Americans may be set to join them. The CDC report classified another 16.1 percent of U.S. households as being “wireless-mostly.” That means that although they have a landline, “all or almost all” of their calls are received on a wireless phone.

The researchers identified five groups of Americans in which the majority had dropped their landlines. Topping that list were adults who lived with unrelated adult roommates — 76.1 percent of them relied solely on a wireless phone. Next up were adults between 25 and 29, a group in which 65.7 percent were wireless-only. They were followed closely by adults who live in rental homes — 61.7 percent had only a wireless phone, according to the report.

Among adults living in poverty, 56.2 percent had a wireless phone but no landline, the researchers found. That compares with 46.1 percent of adults who were “near poverty” and 36.6 percent of adults who had a “higher income.”

Finally, 53.1 percent of Latino adults were wireless-only, the only racial or ethnic group to cross the 50 percent threshold. In comparison, 42.7 percent of blacks, 38.1 percent of Asians and 35.1 percent of whites had also ditched their landlines, according to the report.

Midwesterners were more likely than Americans from any other part of the country to be classified as wireless-only, with 43.7 percent earning that designation. Americans in the South and West were close behind, with 41.9 percent and 41.2 percent, respectively, relying solely on their wireless phones. By comparison, only 24.9 percent of Northeasterners had cut the cord to their landline, the researchers reported.

Men held the edge over women when it came to living in wireless households, by a slim margin of 40.4 percent to 37.9 percent.

The data in the report were collected as part of a large ongoing study called the National Health Interview Survey. In 2003 interviewers began asking subjects whether they had a wireless phone in addition to — or instead of — a landline.

It turns out that there are some noticeable health differences between Americans who are wireless-only and those who are not. Wireless-only adults were more likely to be smokers and drinkers than adults with a landline, the researchers found. For example, 29 percent of wireless-only adults told interviewers that they had consumed at least five alcoholic drinks in a single day at least once in the previous year, compared with 17.2 percent of adults with a landline.

Adults in wireless-only households were also more likely to go without health insurance in the second half of 2013 (25.2 percent) than their tethered counterparts (14.7 percent). They also had greater odds of experiencing “financial barriers to obtaining needed health care” and to be lacking “a usual place to go for medical care.”