The American home had been on a diet, but the latest evidence is homes are getting bigger once again.
Back in 2007, the average new home completed was 2,571 square feet. By 2010, it had trimmed down to 2,392 square feet, but last year the trend was reversed and our new homes are now being completed at 2,480 square feet. That means the 2011 new home is just a good-sized closet short of its 2007 cousin.
In the Midwest, we get by with less space per house (2,287 square feet) than do folks in the other regions of the country. In the Northeast, the average new house has 2,559 square feet.
Now, the 2,500 square feet figure sounds like a nice tidy number with plenty of room for the 2.6 persons per household reported by the Census Bureau. But it hides some interesting facts:
In 2011, 26 percent of the new homes completed had 3,000 or more square feet. In 1999, just 17 percent of new homes achieved that size.
We don’t live in square feet, we live in rooms. Our most common way of describing a house is to talk about its number of bedrooms. Of the new homes coming on the market in 2011, 39 percent had four or more bedrooms. That is the highest percentage recorded by the Census Bureau going back to 1973.
Three-bedroom homes last year accounted for fewer than 50 percent of all new homes; this is only the third time since ’73 that the majority of new homes were not of the three bedroom variety.
Since 1997, half of the new homes built in the nation have had more than two bathrooms. In 2011, that figure was just shy of 60 percent.
By now you are saying, “Who cares?” and “Congress is right to attempt cutting the budget of an agency that gives us such data.”
If you manufacture or install carpeting, you care.
If you sell tub and shower fixtures, you care about the number of bathrooms.
If you make or service furnaces, you care whether the houses are heated with gas or electricity.
“Who cares?” Tens of thousands of businesses across America need to know about the size and features of new housing. Where would they get reliable data if the Ryan budget passed by Republicans in the House of Representatives were successful in the Senate?
Capitalism requires information for the successful operation of business. And the GOP is the party of private enterprise?
That budget bill would have trimmed the data collection and dissemination services of the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and Bureau of Labor Statistics (to name a few agencies).
It would have been a calamity for private enterprise since no private sector organization provides enough comparable data for reliable analysis over time.
One of America’s great competitive advantages over other nations is our statistical infrastructure. The Republican budget, which we can accept only as a gag put forth by some ignorant pranksters, would have been a crippling blow to our business community.
Morton Marcus is an independent economist, writer and speaker formerly with the IU Kelley School of Business.