Random (but not really)

Monday, August 20, 2018

House Size Vs Household Size in the US

I came across an article on how the size of houses has changed over time in the United States. I found it interesting how there was a slow decline until WWII, then the square footage drops for the only time, after which house size skyrockets.

Now this is interesting in and of itself, but I know that my great-grandmother had (IIRC) ten kids, most of whom survived to adulthood (many of whom lived to 90, but that’s another tale), so I was curious as to whether the household size briefly increased once modern medical techniques came to the fore before decreasing.

Interestingly, the data I found didn’t show a bump in the 1900s, just a steady decline. (You can also check the census data.)

So of course, being me, I wanted to see how this data looked.

It turned out to be far more linear than I was expecting, although it did make a nice X.

Now to be clear, we’re looking at household size here, not total population, so that number should include not just children, but parents or grandparents or other extended family members. Which is why I found the steady decline so interesting.

But even more fascinating–and horrifying–is that as households got smaller, the size of the house in which those smaller families live has gotten steadily larger.

Don’t get me wrong–I live in a very small house and there have been many occasions where I desperately wished my kitchen was bigger, or that I had a separate dining room, or that I had another bedroom, or that I had more storage space. But for the most part I like living in a small house.

Which is why I find the increase is house size so bizarre. What on earth do people PUT in these houses? Do people in houses three times as large as my house even see each other over the course of a day?

So that’s one of the things that has been on my mind recently, and now I’ve nattered on about it I can close a bunch of browser tabs.

ADDENDUM the FIRST: The reason there was no household data in 1920 was because apparently the census takers didn’t count large households the same as was done in other years.

2 Responses to “House Size Vs Household Size in the US”

  1. Anne Cutrell Says:

    My brother, who has a much bigger house than I do wanted additional space for a home office, a guest bedroom, and now his basement is finished so that he can either rent it out or house one or both of our parents if needed. My house we would not be able to do that.

  2. Michelle Says:

    And that’s not unreasonable–if you have reasons for needing the space. Dog knows that when there were three people living in my house it was frequently entirely too small.

    But I definitely do not need three times the space I currently have, which is where I would be with the current new home average I think.

    Big houses aren’t inherent evil if that space is being *used* but it seems like so many of those new houses have rooms just for the sake of floor space. Does anyone need twice as many bedrooms as they have house occupants? Does anyone who is not a professional chef need two kitchens?

    My great-grandparents house had two kitchens, but that was when stoves were heated with fire, so the summer kitchen was barely attached to the house and the winter kitchen was in the center of the house. (I often wish in the summer MY kitchen was only semi attached, but in the winter I appreciate it.)

    And as you said, your brother is planning for the addition of one or two more occupants. And he’s saving resources in other ways if he’s working from him.

    Big houses aren’t inherently bad, but waste *is*.

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