• Presentation

The Impact of Landline and Cell Phone Usage Patterns Among Young Adults on Survey Outcomes


Currivan, D. B., Roe, D., & Stockdale, J. D. (2008, May). The Impact of Landline and Cell Phone Usage Patterns Among Young Adults on Survey Outcomes. Presented at AAPOR 2008, New Orleans, LA.


A current challenge in conducting telephone surveys is obtaining satisfactory representation among young adults. Surveys using random-digit dial (RDD) or directory-listed sample frames exclude the approximately 28 percent of adults age 18 to 24 who live in households without landline phone service. In addition to this well-documented coverage issue, a further problem is the potential difficulty in contacting and interviewing the 70 percent of young adults who do live in households with landline phone service. RDD telephone surveys may further under-represent the full population of young adults by excluding those young adults who primarily rely on cell phones and are difficult to reach by landline phones. Young adults who primarily use cell phones may have important similarities with those who only have wireless phone service. Excluding them would therefore negatively effect survey representativeness. To better understand the potential impact of phone usage patterns on nonresponse among young adults, this paper examines patterns of landline and cell phone use among adults age 18 to 24 and assesses the impact of these usage patterns on nonresponse bias. The data we use are drawn from an RDD-based survey on health behaviors that targeted young adults in the state of New York. All participants were asked about their current phone service and usage patterns with respect to both landline and cell phones. We examined whether and how the presence, number, and sharing of cell phones in households was related to young adults’ responsiveness to landline phone calls. In addition, we expected (and found) that young adults interviewed via landline phones would report significantly greater use of cell phones versus landline phones. Bringing several demographic characteristics and health indicators into the analysis, we then assessed how young adults’ reliance on wireless phone service could potentially contribute to nonresponse error in RDD surveys on health behaviors.