The “Growing” American Dream: An Analysis of Historic Trends in Housing

Erin Cammel, Kansas State University

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Abstract:The purpose of this paper is to compare data found in Small Homes of Architectural Distinction by the Architects’ Small House Service Bureau in 1929 to U.S. Census data from 1930 and 1980 through 2010. In an attempt to explain the expansion of the American household, average square footage and number of bedrooms and bathrooms are correlated to average household size and income (U.S. Census Bureau, n.d., a.). All of these statistical categories have been impacted by the fluctuation of the American economy and cultural influences.

Introduction: The American household has seen many changes through the past century. Although the household has seen fluctuation, there is a general trend of larger homes. At the turn of the 20th century, the average single-family house was quite small by contemporary standards given that the average family size was more than four persons. Through the years, houses have become larger in square footage, number of bedrooms, and number of bathrooms while family size has been shrinking (U.S. Census Bureau, n.d., b).

American social and cultural views have changed over the years, sparking this phenomenon. Chung (2012) provided insight into the social and cultural changes that have precipitated American society. The growth in the size of single-family homes has had significant negative impacts on our sense of community among members of society. Homes are becoming a statement of household wealth. Homes of substantial size have become so excessive that they have to be built as commercial construction because regular residential construction cannot support them (Chung, 2012). A comparative analysis of historical housing trend data from 1929 to 2012 will reveal how housing designs indicate shifts in societal expectations for standards of living across generations.

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