Special Report

The Size of a Home the Year You Were Born

Evan Comen, Michael B. Sauter


To determine the average size of a newly constructed single-family home between 1971 and 2017, 24/7 Wall St. used survey data from the Census Bureau’s American Housing Survey. For the years 1963 and 1970 we used data from the Census Bureau’s U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 1969 “Characteristics of New One-Family Homes” construction report. For the years 1940, 1950, and 1954 to 1956, we used the Bureau of Labor Statistics New Housing and its Materials 1940-56 report. For all other years, we estimated the average size of a newly constructed home using construction data on residential housing starts and total residential floor space constructed in a given year from the Census Bureau’s annual “Statistical Abstracts of the United States” and its “Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970” report. We took the quotient of total residential floor space and total residential housing starts and made adjustments to account for the inclusion of multi-family housing units and exclusion of various states in the national tally of total floor space constructed. We also adjusted housing starts to better approximate housing completions. Average household size also came from the Census Bureau. GDP per capita figures for years 1929 to 2017 are from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. GDP per capita figures for years 1920 to 1928, which were not available from the BEA, came from estimates by the Maddison Project.