Do 46 million Americans really own crypto?

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Newsweek published an article claiming 46 million Americans own Bitcoin, but where did the figures come from?

Crypto social media was abuzz after Newsweek published the article headlined “46 Million Americans Now Own Bitcoin, As Crypto Goes Mainstream” on May 11.

The impressive figure was re-posted by notable Bitcoiners including MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor who tweeted: “The finance industry is taking crypto mainstream by building Bitcoin into their insurance, banking, & investment products. Newsweek says 46 million Americans now own Bitcoin.”

Coin Metrics co-founder Nic Carter said that sheer number of Bitcoiners represents “a powerful constituency that cannot be ignored. Political dividends for embracing Bitcoin are enormous.”

Dan Held, the growth lead at Kraken was another celebrating the milestone, tweeting:

“46 Million Americans own Bitcoin. 22% of all adults. It’s happening.”

However over on the r/bitcoin subreddit, the general reaction was best characterized as disbelief, with some Redditors calling it “grossly exaggerated” or posting that they were “not buying those numbers”. Redditor unfuckingstoppable posted:

“Sounds very high. I don’t know a single person who owns it. and this says 1 in 6 or 7 people own it.”

The 46 million figure for crypto ownership in America actually comes from a survey conducted from Jan. 6 to Jan .7 by New York Digital Investment Group or NYDIG.

The January survey was referenced in a more recent survey conducted on March 22 by NYDIG about Bitcoin and life insurance, which formed the basis of the Newsweek article. Though long in the tooth, the researtch has caught people’s attention thanks to being highlighted in a major media outlet.

The sample sizes from both surveys are relatively small, however are considered statistically valid. The first was conducted on 1050 participants with incomes over $50,000 and has a margin error of 3.1%. The second was conducted on 2,184 U.S. consumers with a margin of error of 2.1%.

Confusingly the first line of the Newsweek article suggests that 46 million Americans equates to “17% of the adult population” while the original NYDIG survey claims the figure equates to 22% of the adult population. Given NYDIG surveyed only those with incomes over $50K (a smaller group than the entire adult population) this may account for the difference in percentages.

Another interesting finding highlighted by Newsweek was that a majority of respondents (53%) “said they didn’t own digital assets, but 55% of those said they would consider adding cryptos to their portfolio.”

The NYDIG survey figures come in higher than a recent survey by crypto exchange Gemini that had a larger sample of 3000 people. The exchange noted in its report that “based on our sample size, we estimate that roughly 14% of the U.S. population owns cryptocurrency”, which they translated to 21.2 million people. Although the figures were published in late April, the survey itself was conducted in October and November 2020 before the 2021 bull run got into full swing.