ibusinesslines.com November 16, 2018

IPhone ownership top indicator of wealth in United States in 2016

13 July 2018, 12:00 | Jodi Jackson


Counting bills

The USA's National Bureau of Economic Research has teamed up with the University of Chicago to reveal how our lifestyle choices shed light on our income.

Researchers Marianne Bertrand and Emir Kamenica looked at study participants' media consumption, consumer behaviour, time use or social attitudes over a number of years, and found 69.1 per cent of people who owned an iPhone in 2016 were "predictive of having a high income".

While the actual report isn't what you would call a page turner, it does say that based on 2016 data, no other brand is as "predictive" of having a high income as the Apple iPhone is.

The research says the iPhone being correlated with high income is just a recent trend. You could tool around town in an expensive auto, wear some fancy duds, live in a giant mansion, or carry an Apple iPhone. After all, iPhones were only introduced in 2007.

For example, in 2004, buying a new vehicle and using Land O'Lakes regular butter implied you were well off, while in 1992 it was owning an automatic dishwasher and buying Grey Poupon Dijon mustard that meant you were among the elite.

"Knowing whether someone owns an iPad in 2016 allows us to guess correctly whether the person is in the top or bottom income quartile 67 percent of the time", they write.

The iPhone tends to be a luxury product for most.

Last year's line-up of Apple handsets started at a hefty £699 ($908), rising to £1,149 ($1,493) for the top version of the swanky iPhone X model.

However, the research also shows that owning a generic Android phone (60 percent) or using Verizon (61 percent), which was the priciest carrier for wireless service in 2016, also were reliable indicators of wealth, too. The data includes bi-annual questions and info on household income based on a face-to-face interview. The economists used a machine learning algorithm to conclude that "cultural differences", or how common brands and experiences are across groups, aren't getting larger over time.

"This take-away runs against the popular narrative of the USA becoming an increasingly divided society", the researchers wrote. By high-income, they meant being in the top quartile of income for households of that type.

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