The Amazing History of American Living Habits

From homes to apartments, renting to buying, gardening to pets, American has come a long way over the years. Things that our grandparents and parent would have considered unthinkable have become the norm, and the American dream is no longer just to own your own home. The rise of executive apartments, luxury condos, even apartment living amenities like a basketball court, hot tub, or playground have changed our perspective on how to have the good life. Here’s some of the biggest changes in American living habits over the last few decades.

  • More people are renting by choice. Renting used to be what you did because you were too poor, too young, too mobile, or too disorganized to have a “real home.” That attitude is becoming more and more obsolete. Surveys of rental residents show that a quarter of them are renters by choice. They don’t have to live in apartments, but they choose to do so. There are 42.58 million housing units in America filled by renters. Half of all renter responders to a recent survey said that they believed renting to be a smarter choice for living within a budget and having lower stress.
  • A lot more of us are choosing to live alone. For the most part, our great-grandparents never had the luxury of even considering a life lived alone, but today 14.3% of Americas do. That’s almost a 5% increase over the way things were in the 1970s. Quite a few more of us are living with relatives as adults, and 23% of all adults under 35 are currently still living with their parents.
  • Our marital relationships have changed a lot. Compared to the 70s, 16% fewer adults are living with a spouse; but the number of people living with a partner they aren’t married to has gone from 0.7% in 1974 to 7.3%. Our desire to have children hasn’t changed significantly, although their living arrangements have. In 1970 only 12% of children living in single-parent homes. Now 28% do so. Only 1% of 1970s children lived without their fathers, and 4% do so now. In 1970, only 7% lived with a parent who had never been married; today, 46% of children have one parents who has never tied the knot.
  • Those of us who still live in homes live in a lot bigger homes than ever before. Our houses are four times larger than the ones people lived in 40 years ago. That’s part of the reason a new home cost about $65,000 in 1980, but nearly $270,000 in 2013.
  • We’re moving to the cities and living in apartments. Census data show the cities are growing at a far faster rate than any other area, and particularly Austin, Texas and Seattle, Washington. With that comes a desire for apartments as millennials put off buying homes and often reject the idea of buying one altogether. In fact, 40% of all new construction is high-rise apartments.
  • We calculate our worth based on experiences rather than square feet. A few decades ago, the amount of property you owned was important to your self-worth. New generations are far more interested in experiences than in things, though the sales of smartphones certainly prove that this doesn’t mean they have no interest in things. But a Millenial looking at apartments will be far more interested in the nearby walking trails, swimming opportunities, and gazebo grilling area with fire pit to meet friends than the size of the space.

For now at least, Americans prefer the city life, mixed communities, and value amenities that allow for experiences more than enormous spaces. Of course, the only thing you can sure of with change is that it will happen. Only the future can tell how Americans’ living habits may change again.

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