Our lawns are shrinking.
Between now and 1978, the average size of the lot on which we build our new homes has fallen by 13%. So yes, at just under a fifth of an acre, the available area for a lawn is somewhat smaller.
Below is a scale drawing of the shrinking American backyard:
“Average American Yard Size, To Scale”
Where are we going? To the real reason we have smaller lawns.
As our lawns have shrunk, our homes have grown. During the past 40 years we’ve added close to 1,000 square feet to the average size of our new single-family homes.
With house size up and household size down, the amount of space each of us enjoys has almost doubled:
Curious about the specifics, I looked at Census Bureau data for new houses in 2015.
Predictably, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms has spiked. In 1973, it was somewhat typical for a house to have 2 bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms. Now, only 4% of all new homes are built with 1.5 bathrooms or less, 38% have 3 baths or more and a whopping 47% have 4 bedrooms or more.
Our Bottom Line: Opportunity Cost
Defined as the best alternative choice, the opportunity cost of a decision is what we sacrifice. For those of us who decided to live in larger homes, our tradeoff could have been the pleasure that we get from a bigger backyard and a grassy view.
And it is nice to have found that disappearing lawn.
My sources and more…Always interesting, the Atlantic’s City Lab alerted me to the changing size of the American lawn while economist Mark Perry provided some of the housing statistics. However, for the data on housing characteristics that extends from 1973 to 2015, the U.S. Census has published endless lists. And for some analysis, WSJ has some reasons.