iPhone ownership top indicator of wealth in U.S. in 2016 – researchers

iPhone ownership top indicator of wealth in U.S. in 2016 – researchers
'Across all years in our data, no individual brand is as predictive of being high-income as owning an Apple iPhone in 2016,' says researchers from the US National Bureau of Economic Research

MANILA, Philippines – New research coming from the United States has found some concrete evidence regarding the direct relationship between wealth and iPhone ownership: iPhone owners, most of the time, are rich.

The study – a new National Bureau of Economic Research working paper that sought to determine whether US cultural preferences have changed across various groups over time – found that there’s a 69% chance to correctly predict that a household is “high-income” based on the ownership of the said device.

The researchers, University of Chicago economists Marianne Bertrand and Emir Kamenica, defined high-income” as those belonging in the top percentile of their household category (i.e. single, couples). 

The research said, as reported by Business Insider, “Across all years in our data, no individual brand is as predictive of being high-income as owning an Apple iPhone in 2016.”

The study says 2016 because, while the paper was published in June 2018, it used data from 2016, specifically interviews and questionnaires from 6,394 respondents collected by research firm Mediamark Research Intelligence. 

Comparison to previous years

The study included the top predictors for other years. In 1992, some of the top brands that were associated with wealth in the US, in no particular order, were Grey Poupon Dijon mustard, Kodak cameras, Kikkoman soy sauce, and Philadelphia Cream Cheese. In 2004, the top brands were a butter brand called Land O’ Lakes Regular, Reynold Wrap aluminum foil, and Toshiba TV sets.

In 2016, the list is dominated by technology-related entries, including iPhone ownership on top of the list, followed by iPad ownership, being on the Verizon Wireless network, owning an Android phone, used Kikkoman, HP printer ownership, being on the AT&T network, and Samsung TV ownership.

With Android phone ownership and other technology-related entries being on the list too, the bigger takeaway is that technology truly plays a bigger part in people’s lives in the US more than any other product category now. While the iPhone, and Apple products in general, are known to be high-priced premium devices, the rise in rank may also be attributed to general rise of smartphone ownership among people since the original’s launch in 2007.

The smartphone, in the modern world, is as much a necessity now as condiments in the early 1990s were, the data suggests. And through strong branding over the years, it’s the iPhone that appears to have remained the top choice for those who can afford it. 

Word to the wise, however: the monetary value of smartphones typically diminish quickly because phone makers, Apple included, have a rapid release cycle for new models. 

The data is also a reminder of how much things have changed technologically over the years. In 1992, the technology-related wealth predictors were owning a phone answering machine and an automatic dishwasher. In 2004, these were owning a stereo in a vehicle, owning a personal computer, and ordering an item on the internet. In 2016, the top entries were owning a vehicle with Bluetooth; ordering an item on the internet, and ordering a plane ticket on the internet.  Rappler.com


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