16% of Americans say they have invested in, traded or used cryptocurrency

A smartphone app shows cryptocurrency exchange rates in April. (Chris Delmas/AFP via Getty Images)

The vast majority of U.S. adults have heard at least a little about cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ether, and 16% say they personally have invested in, traded or otherwise used one, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Men ages 18 to 29 are particularly likely to say they have used cryptocurrencies.

A bar chart showing that nearly nine-in-ten Americans say they have heard at least a little about cryptocurrency, and 16% say they have ever invested in, traded or used one themselves

Overall, 86% of Americans say they have heard at least a little about cryptocurrencies, including 24% who say they have heard a lot about them, according to the survey of U.S. adults, conducted Sept. 13-19, 2021. Some 13% say they have heard nothing at all.

In 2015, the Center asked Americans different questions that were focused exclusively on Bitcoin. At the time, 48% of adults said they had heard of Bitcoin (to any degree), and just 1% said they had ever collected, traded or used it.

Pew Research Center has conducted several studies about Americans and cryptocurrency. This survey was conducted among 10,371 U.S. adults from Sept. 13-19, 2021. Everyone who took part is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology. Here are the questions used for this report, along with responses, and its methodology.

This survey includes a total sample size of 362 Asian Americans. The sample includes English-speaking Asian Americans only and, therefore, may not be representative of the overall Asian American population. Despite this limitation, it is important to report the views of Asian Americans on the topics in this study. As always, Asian Americans’ responses are incorporated into the general population figures throughout this report. Because of the relatively small sample size and a reduction in precision due to weighting, we are not able to analyze Asian American respondents by demographic categories, such as gender, age or education.

In the new survey, certain demographic groups are particularly likely to say they have used cryptocurrencies, with some of the largest differences by age and gender.

A bar chart showing that 43% of men ages 18 to 29 say they have invested in, traded or used a cryptocurrency

Roughly three-in-ten Americans ages 18 to 29 (31%) say they have ever invested in, traded or used a cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin or Ether, compared with smaller shares of adults in older age groups. Men are about twice as likely as women to say they ever used a cryptocurrency (22% vs. 10%).

These differences are especially pronounced when looking at age and gender together. About four-in-ten men ages 18 to 29 (43%), for example, say they have ever invested in, traded or used a cryptocurrency, compared with 19% of women in the same age range. Among both men and women, the likelihood of having invested in, traded or used cryptocurrency decreases with age.

Asian, Black and Hispanic adults are more likely than White adults to say they have ever invested in, traded or used a cryptocurrency. There are no statistically significant differences by household income.

While majorities across demographic groups say they have heard at least a little about cryptocurrency, smaller shares say they have heard a lot. For example, adults under 50 (31%) and men (35%) are more likely than older Americans (16%) and women (15%), respectively, to say they have heard a lot.

The share of adults who have heard a lot about cryptocurrency also varies by race, ethnicity and household income. For example, 43% of Asian Americans say they have heard a lot about cryptocurrency, compared with 29% of Hispanic adults and about a quarter of Black or White adults. Americans with higher incomes (31%) are more likely than those with middle (25%) and lower incomes (21%) to have heard a lot about cryptocurrency.

These findings emerge as government leaders and others debate the regulation of cryptocurrency – which has been defined as a medium of exchange that is digital, encrypted and decentralized, with no central authority that manages and maintains its value. Financial regulators have worried about policing cryptocurrencies and have raised concerns about the long-term viability of such currencies, such as Bitcoin.

China recently banned transactions using cryptocurrencies. U.S. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell said this summer that these currencies need more regulation, and the Biden administration is trying to combat ransomware by cracking down on cryptocurrency payments. At the same time, El Salvador in September became the first country to declare Bitcoin as legal tender.

Note: Here are the questions used for this report, along with responses, and its methodology.

Andrew Perrin  is a research analyst focusing on internet and technology at Pew Research Center.


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