The Graying of Ham Radio

If you need more evidence that ham radio is becoming an old man’s hobby, you need look no further than the latest WorldRadio Subscriber Survey. The magazine polled 1,600 readers; 1,237 replied.

The first thing that jumps out at me is that less than 5% (4.5%, to be exact) of the respondents are less than 45 years old, and more than half (52.8%) are more than 65 years old! No wonder a friend of mine always seems to confuse the ARRL with AARP.

The problem, of course, is not that there are so many seniors in ham radio. I think that’s a good thing. The problem is that there are so few kids.

Why is this a problem? Well, I’m not sure of the demographics of the ARRL membership, but I’d bet it’s pretty much the same as in this survey. Being a membership organization, they do have to provide services to their members, BUT this shouldn’t be at the expense of looking out for the future of amateur radio. And it’s my opinion that this is exactly what’s happening.

I’m not sure what the answer is, but we really do need to start working on this. Ham radio has a lot to offer. We have to get it in front of kids again and make it an option for them.


  1. Joe, KD8CEH says:

    I’m sure ham radio is graying, but may not be quite as bad as the survey suggests. The subscriber pool for WorldRadio may be skewed from the general demographic of hams. For example, I’ve never heard of it.

  2. Joe, KD8CEH says:

    Oddly enough, I just got an unsolicited copy of WorldRadio in the mail. I’d say their subscriber base is likely to be skewed. Nobody under 40 will have ever seen a magazine printed in that low-rent format apart from Trader Joe’s fliers, and their editorial tone is very clubby and insular, and very focused on old-timers. There’s some great information and articles in there, but their production values and attitude pretty much guarantee their audience is going to be limited.

    Does anyone have access to the actual FCC stats to see how old hams are?

  3. You may be right that its target audience is the senior set, but that’s what I was trying to get at in the item. If they aimed it at younger people, they wouldn’t have an audience, because there aren’t that many younger people in the hobby. But it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. If amateur radio doesn’t somehow appeal to younger people, we’ll never be able to attract any, and we’ll just keep getting older and older.

    On the other hand, the editor of Make magazine was on the radio yesterday. It seems geared to a younger audience, yet they share many of the same values that active hams do. We need to recruit that crowd, I think.

    As for FCC stats, the FCC some time ago quit asking for birthdates. Probably because someone somewhere thought it was an invasion of privacy. The only other survey was done by the ARRL a couple years ago, and I believe it basically showed the same thing.

  4. Joe is probably correct…the Worldradio demographics is probably skewed high in terms of age. But Dan’s point is still valid…ham operators are getting grayer (myself included).

    My best data point was when I took my teenage daugthers (both had their Tech license at age 11) to a hamfest. They looked around and say virtually zero people in their age group. Then they asked, “Dad, are all hams fat and old?”

    73, Bob K0NR

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