Bitcoin Making Inroads With Younger U.S. Investors

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Story Highlights

  • 6% of U.S. investors now own bitcoin, up from 2% in 2018
  • 13% of investors younger than 50 own it, versus 3% of older investors
  • Concern that bitcoin is “very risky” has declined

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In the past three years, bitcoin has gained traction with U.S. investors in awareness, interest and ownership. Although few investors overall own it, there is more momentum among investors younger than 50.

Six percent of U.S. investors — defined as adults with $10,000 or more invested in stocks, bonds or mutual funds — say they own bitcoin. This is up from 2% in 2018. But ownership is up a more impressive 10 percentage points, to 13%, among investors aged 18 to 49. It remains minimal among investors aged 50 and older; just 3% now say they own it, versus 1% three years ago.

Percentage of U.S. Investors Who Currently Own Bitcoin

Which of the following applies to you — you currently own bitcoin; you will probably buy bitcoin in the near future; you are intrigued by bitcoin but won’t be buying it anytime soon; you have no interest in ever buying bitcoin?

% Currently own bitcoin

May 2018 June 2021 Change
% % pct. pts.
U.S. investors 2 6 +4
Age
18 to 49 3 13 +10
50 and older 1 3 +2
Gender
Men 3 11 +8
Women 1 3 +2
Total investments
$100,000 or more 2 8 +6
Less than $100,000 0 6 +6
U.S. investors are adults with $10,000 or more invested in stocks, bonds or mutual funds, either within or outside a retirement fund
Gallup Panel

Bitcoin ownership is similar across investor asset levels — 8% of those with less than $100,000 invested and 6% of those with $100,000 or more invested currently own it.

Separately, Gallup finds male investors are over three times as active as female investors in the bitcoin market, with 11% of male investors and 3% of female investors now owners.

These findings come from the second-quarter Gallup Investor Optimism Index survey, conducted June 22-29.

Bitcoin ownership can be contrasted with the more mainstream investments U.S. investors rely on. For instance, 84% of investors report having money invested in stock index funds or mutual funds, 67% say they own individual stocks, and 50% have bonds. At 6%, bitcoin ownership is more akin to gold, which 11% of investors say they own.

Fewer Investors Now Bitcoin-Averse

The potential market for bitcoin among existing U.S. investors has also expanded since 2018.

  • In addition to the 6% who currently own bitcoin, another 2% say they will probably buy bitcoin in the near future. In 2018, less than half of 1% anticipated buying it.
  • Thirty-four percent, up from 26% in 2018, say they are intrigued by bitcoin but “won’t be buying it anytime soon.”

This leaves 58% who say they have no interest in ever buying bitcoin, down from 72% in 2018.

U.S. Investors’ Connection to Owning Bitcoin

Which of the following applies to you?

May 2018 June 2021
% %
You currently own bitcoin 2 6
You will probably buy bitcoin in the near future <1 2
You are intrigued by bitcoin but won’t be buying it anytime soon 26 34
You have no interest in ever buying bitcoin 72 58
U.S. investors are adults with $10,000 or more invested in stocks, bonds or mutual funds, either within or outside a retirement fund
Gallup Panel

The bitcoin-averse group is now well below the majority level (38%) among investors aged 18 to 49. But, at 70%, it continues to be the dominant position of older investors. The gender gap is less pronounced on this metric than in terms of bitcoin ownership, with 55% of male investors and 61% of female investors reporting no plans to ever buy bitcoin.

U.S. Investors Who Have No Interest in Ever Buying Bitcoin

May 2018 June 2021 Change
% % pct. pts.
U.S. investors 72 58 -14
Age
18 to 49 56 38 -18
50 and older 80 70 -10
Gender
Men 66 55 -11
Women 78 61 -17
Total investments
$100,000 or more 74 63 -11
Less than $100,000 66 50 -16
U.S. investors are adults with $10,000 or more invested in stocks, bonds or mutual funds, either within or outside a retirement fund
Gallup Panel

Awareness and Perceptions of Risk

Two factors that could play a role in bitcoin catching on with investors are how familiar they are with it and how risky they see it as an investment. Both have become more favorable for bitcoin since 2018.

The percentage of U.S. investors who say they have heard of and know something about bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies has increased to 38%, from 29% in 2018. This includes even larger jumps into majority-level familiarity among male investors (17 points, to 55%) and investors aged 18 to 49 (14 points, to 62%). By contrast, just 24% of both female investors and those aged 50 and older report being familiar with bitcoin, little changed from 2018.

U.S. Investors Who Have Heard of Bitcoin and Know Something About It

How familiar are you with bitcoin or other online currencies, also known as cryptocurrencies?

% Heard of them and know something about them

May 2018 June 2021 Change
% % pct. pts.
U.S. investors 29 38 +9
Age
18 to 49 48 62 +14
50 and older 19 24 +5
Gender
Men 38 55 +17
Women 20 24 +4
Total investments
$100,000 or more 25 38 +13
Less than $100,000 39 39 0
U.S. investors are adults with $10,000 or more invested in stocks, bonds or mutual funds, either within or outside a retirement fund
Gallup Panel

Nearly all investors perceive bitcoin to be a risky investment to some degree — but the percentage calling it “very risky” has declined to 60%, from 75% in 2018. Most of the rest, now 35%, consider it “somewhat risky,” while just 5% think it is “not too risky” or “not risky at all.”

While majorities of most subgroups of investors still consider bitcoin very risky, less than half of investors aged 18 to 49 currently feel that way, down from 71% in 2018.

U.S. Investors Who Consider Bitcoin Very Risky

What is your view about the risk level of bitcoin as an investment — very risky, somewhat risky, not too risky or not risky at all?

% Very risky

May 2018 June 2021 Change
% % pct. pts.
U.S. investors 75 60 -15
Gender
Men 83 61 -22
Women 67 59 -8
Age
18 to 49 71 47 -24
50 and older 77 68 -9
Total investments
$100,000 or more 79 63 -16
Less than $100,000 67 54 -13
U.S. investors are adults with $10,000 or more invested in stocks, bonds or mutual funds, either within or outside a retirement fund
Gallup Panel

Bottom Line

Three years ago, a very small percentage of investors reported owning bitcoin, most reported having little knowledge of it, and majorities — regardless of gender or age — expressed limited interest in ever buying it. Since then, the price of bitcoin has grown by over 300%, well outpacing the market’s roughly 40% increase over the same period. Purchasing it has become easier for average Americans through crypto exchanges such as Coinbase, Kraken and Gemini. And large investments in bitcoin by well-known companies such as Tesla, Square and Morgan Stanley (the latter done indirectly through other investments) may be giving it more mainstream credibility.

Perhaps as a result, bitcoin is inching closer to general acceptance among U.S. investors, particularly with those under age 50. Not only do 13% of these relatively young investors own it, but their familiarity with it and willingness to buy it have risen to majority levels. Still, stocks, bonds and mutual funds remain the dominant types of investments for investors of all age groups. Thus, for now, it appears bitcoin is an ancillary purchase for investors trying to supplement their portfolio and not a replacement for more traditional securities.

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Learn more about how the Gallup Investor Optimism Index works.