Size Does Matter

by Don Boudreaux on June 30, 2004

in Standard of Living

The current issue of U.S. News & World Report reports on the trend in square-footage of houses in the U.S.:

American houses have clearly gotten much, much bigger. In 1950, the average single-family home was 983 square feet. By 1970, it was 1,500. Today it is 2,329.

It’s not clear if these figures are calculated from the size of all existing single-family homes during each of these years, or if they are figures for the average size of new homes built during each of these years. I suspect the former, but don’t really know. Either way, the square-footage of the average American home is rising.

Pay special attention to the fact that today’s average single-family home has 55% more square footage than did the average single-family home of 1970. (I’m confident that, because vaulted and cathedral ceilings are today far more common than they were thirty years ago, the increase in cubic footage is even more impressive than the increase in square footage.) And because the average number of persons per household in the U.S. in 1970 was 19% larger than it is today (3.08 in 1970 compared to 2.58 today), today’s typical American enjoys substantially more indoor living space than did the average American of 1970.

I’ll remember this fact about housing size next time I encounter someone who insinuates that America reached its peak of prosperity in the early 1970s.

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