Report on results from survey of amateur radio operators

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by N8XJ, Nov 20, 2017.

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  1. N8XJ

    N8XJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hello Everyone...

    Back in April 2015 I posted an invitation on QRZ.COM inviting hams to participate in an online survey. The survey was aimed at "relative newcomers" to amateur radio: those licensed for the first time between January 1, 2000 and the end of April 2015. I just finished a report that explores the survey data. The report discusses findings including those related to the age of operators, extent of interest in CW, and relationship between career and ham radio. Through open-ended question results, I then explore (in-depth) reasons for taking up amateur radio and its perceived relevance in this day and age.

    I hope this will be of interest to the ham community. The report can be accessed here (

    Joel Shelton
    KC1EKB, KM4MIS, W5WI and 9 others like this.
  2. MW1CFN

    MW1CFN Ham Member QRZ Page

    Very interesting.

    Above all, I think the real worry comes from the 60-odd percent who are referencing the past as influencing their motivation to become an operator.

    This is because:

    (1) CB is now a non-entity relative to its late 70s/early 80s peak and so doesn't offer an entry point to radio

    (2) listening to SW is becoming quite difficult from urban and semi-urban environments due to RFI. Also, SW is no longer available on 'standard' household radios, as once were ubiquitous, so it doesn't offer the chance of a curiosity-driven discovery. Many radios are now digital, making the situation worse.

    (3) it may well be likely, as a result of (1) and (2), and the huge redution in the numbers who went into comms as a result of military service, that meeting people already engaged in radio is becoming rarer.
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2017
    MI0YLT, W3LO, WD4IGX and 1 other person like this.
  3. WW2E

    WW2E Ham Member QRZ Page

    Was this a graduate school project?
  4. MM0TWX

    MM0TWX Ham Member QRZ Page

    Well done and very interesting. Thank you for a good read.
  5. KK5JY

    KK5JY Ham Member QRZ Page

    Interesting. The peak age of first licensure is those in their 50's, and the average appears to be those in their early 50's. Many of us have been trying to explain that to this group for a long time now.

    Ham radio is for people who have established lifestyles, with free time and money on their hands that is not otherwise allocated to hobbies or other activities (like raising kids or paying for their education).

    The "new blood" for this hobby will continue to be people in this age range (late 40's, early 50's). That means that the hobby isn't dying, and there is no "attrition" problem, as evidenced by the ever-growing number of licensees.

    As a result, efforts to lower the average age of first licensure will continue to be fruitless and futile, since lowering that age would also mean lowering the average age of people whose kids are "out the door" and on their own, and that's just not going to happen in a society where kids are born later and later in their parents' lives.
    N3HOE, W1IP, KR3DX and 8 others like this.
  6. WA8FOZ

    WA8FOZ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Interesting comment.
  7. W0PV

    W0PV Ham Member QRZ Page

    With the total number as well as new FCC Amateur Radio licenses hitting an all time high point recently, why is there so much concern about the "youth" demographic lately? As others have said, general socio-economic conditions today point toward an older age of entry now.

    In comparison to the OP study, also look at the data in this thread seven years ago, posted by Jim N2EY,;wap2

    Year Population #Hams Hams as % of US Population
    1913 97,225,000 2,000 0.002%
    1914 99,111,000 5,000 0.005%
    1916 101,961,000 6,000 0.006%
    1921 108,538,000 10,809 0.010%
    1922 110,049,000 14,179 0.013%
    1930 123,202,624 19,000 0.015%
    1940 132,164,569 56,000 0.042%
    1950 151,325,798 87,000 0.057%
    1960 179,323,175 230,000 0.128%
    1966 WNØPEV licensed *
    1970 203,211,926 263,918 0.130%
    1980 226,545,805 393,353 0.174%
    1990 248,709,873 502,677 0.202%
    1997 267,783,607 678,733 0.253%
    2000 281,421,906 682,240 0.242%
    2005 296,410,404 662,600 0.224%
    2006 299,291,772 657,814 0.220%
    2008 303,000,000 658,648 0.217%
    2010 310,425,814 694,313 0.224%

    2017 700,000 + !!!

    Some significant-to-US-ham-radio historical events:

    1912: Mandatory licensing of all US radio amateurs
    1917: US amateur radio shut down because of WW1
    1919: US amateur radio reopened after WW1
    1920s: Radio broadcasting boom; amateurs pioneer use of short-waves
    1929: New regulations require higher quality transmitters and drastically narrow US ham bands. Stock market crashes
    1930s: Great Depression
    1941: US amateur radio shut down because of WW2
    1945: US amateur radio reopened after WW2
    1951: Restructuring doubles number of US license classes, Novice, Tech and Extra created
    1957: Sputnik launched
    1958: 27 MHz cb authorized
    1960s: SSB replaces AM as most-popular voice mode on HF amateur bands
    1968-69: Incentive licensing rules enacted
    1970s: Novice renewable, experience requirement for Extra eliminated. Repeater boom era.
    1984: VEC system replaces FCC office testing. CSCEs created.
    1990: Medical waivers for 13 and 20 wpm code tests
    1991: Technician loses its code test completely
    2000: Restructuring closes off 3 license classes and reduces test requirements for other 3.
    2007: Code testing completely eliminated for US amateur licenses.

    73 de John - WØPV*
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2017
    KW4EK, N3HOE, KG5TJV and 1 other person like this.
  8. KZ5R

    KZ5R Subscriber QRZ Page


    Nicely done! I was especially surprised to see entry level age being so much higher than I expected.

    Bob, KZ5R
    Balun Designs
  9. K7JEM

    K7JEM Ham Member QRZ Page

    I think your analysis is a little off. People become hams because it is something they always wanted to to, a desire from their youth. That was the number one thing.

    And people that are 50+ years old grew up with radio, and know what it is. But people under 30 do not remember the magic of radio, it is just an "old technology" to them. Younger people may be interested because they like quaint things, but they (for the most part) never experienced things like we did.

    So, the numbers will eventually taper off, as more and more people get older. Twenty years from now, when these current 30 year olds are then 50, we won't see this influx. And as fewer and fewer jobs are related to radio, that aspect of interest is going away.

    The rate of growth is slowing. We gained about 5K licensees this past 12 months. The previous 12 months before this was about 7K. And it has been 7-8K for the past 5 years, before the most recent year. We may shortly see the growth rate go to negative, that could happen within a very few years. But I don't know how to fix that.
    MI0YLT likes this.
  10. KK5JY

    KK5JY Ham Member QRZ Page

    I'm sure you do. You and I have taken rather opposite positions in the "license restructuring" debate.

    As people get older, the influx of people in their 40's and 50's will continue to replace them. Those are the "young people" in the hobby. The OP's research and the FCC licensure numbers support such a conclusion. The former shows the age distribution, and the latter shows that the number of licensed hams continues to increase.

    You can't make a trend out of a single data point. If you see several years like that, then you can draw conclusions about a change in the baseline.

    I think the proper sequence of events is:
    1. Determine whether a problem actually exists.
    2. Determine the specifics of the problem -- what are the details, causes, effects.
    3. Based on (2), determine if the situation is such that active intervention is required to "solve" the "problem."
    4. Formulate a solution that addresses the issues and requirements identified in (2), if any.
    We're not even past (1), the single year of licensure rate reduction, notwithstanding.
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2017
    KC1EKB and N3HOE like this.

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