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The One Email Stat You Should Question

By Ken Magill
There is one email statistic that is casually thrown around as if everyone agrees it’s true and yet I can’t find it definitively sourced—I suspect because it’s not true.
The stat is that 30 percent of people change their email addresses annually.
The 30-percent-change stat is used as an argument for email list hygiene and there is certainly nothing wrong with recommending good list hygiene. But, just as with the age-old debate on email engagement, I suspect this bit of conventional wisdom is being used to push for more aggressive list trimming than is necessary.
Sure, business email addresses change as people change employers, but 30 percent of U.S. employees certainly are not switching employers on a yearly basis.
U.S. workers had an average job tenure of 4.6 years in 2012, the last year for which figures are available, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
It’s difficult to believe any country with an Internet-connected labor force is so fluid, business email addresses change at a rate of even close to thirty percent annually.
So what about consumers who move and change Internet service providers and their email addresses as a result? It’s safe to assume a significant percentage of movers have web-based email accounts that don’t change as a result of a move.
Moreover, after peaking at 15 percent in 2002, the percentage of Americans that move annually dipped and is now at about 12 percent, according to the Census Bureau.
Also, switching primary email addresses is a pain. Password-protected sites often—if not always—require email addresses. If a user forgets their password, the site sends it to the email address associated with the account.
Online retail and social-media accounts are associated with people’s email addresses, as well. 
Does it make sense that 30 percent of people are taking the time to switch primary email addresses annually, re-subscribe to every sender from whom they want to get email and update all their corresponding accounts? Does it make sense that 30 percent of’s email file goes bad every year? Not to me, it doesn’t.
Common sense says email addresses used in online financial transactions don’t go bad at even close to 30 percent per year.
And if anyone can show otherwise—particularly, where that 30-percent-email-churn stat originally came from—I’m all ears.

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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: Danielle
Date: 2015-07-10 12:03:42
Subject: Email Change-of-address

From the latest comments it sounds as though we haven't found too many recent sources for the change-of-email stats. Matt, has Return Path researched this more recently?
Posted by: Ken Magill
Date: 2015-07-08 11:33:11
Subject: missing a few cases

Thanks Steve, but what percentage of the population ever creates email addresses for one-off purposes? I suspect that number is very low.
Posted by: Steve Henderson
Date: 2015-07-08 03:25:43
Subject: missing a few cases

Yes people change jobs and migrate from one email provider to another, but I find most email churn does not come from a person's work or primary email address, but from the transitory and temporary email addresses which are created for a one-off purpose. The difference I see between B2B and B2C lists shows this; with B2B lists having anything between 5 and 15% annual churn rate, but with B2C lists having a 20-30% churn rate.
Posted by: Laura
Date: 2015-07-07 17:52:04

I tried tracking this down a while ago. Managed to find a reference to a late-90s study done by Brightmail / Gartner group that was addressing ISP address churn. I can't seem to find it again (and while I'm sure I saved it on my laptop, I can't get my fingers on it).
Posted by: Ken Magill
Date: 2015-07-07 17:45:09
Subject: So you're the culprit:)

Thanks Matt. Makes sense.
Posted by: Don Hinman
Date: 2015-07-07 16:57:24
Subject: My number is different but still unattributed

The number I hear is 23% change their email annually. But I have no idea where that number comes from except my slideware!
Posted by: Matt Blumberg
Date: 2015-07-07 16:47:23

I believe the stat (32%) came from research Return Path did in 2000 when we launched our original product, Email Change of Address (ECOA). It was accurate at the time - we did real research on it. I can't imagine it is still accurate today.