The population of the United States is constantly evolving, both cumulatively and year over year. But one measure of the American population is consistently shrinking: the average household size.
According to the Census Bureau’s annual Current Population Survey, the average American household had 2.5 people in 2022. In 1940, the average household size was 3.7.
Houses are also changing, both in numbers and size. The Census Bureau’s Housing Vacancy Survey shows a 22.8% increase in total housing units during the last 25 years. The Census Bureau’s Characteristics of New Housing study reports that the median size of a newly completed single-family home in 2022 was 2,299 square feet — 20% bigger than in 1990. In 2022, 50% of new single-family homes sold were larger than 2,400 square feet, compared with 37% two decades ago.
What's changed about how Americans use their homes?
Although the average American household size has declined, Census data trends may help explain the increased quantity and size of single-family homes.
Children living with their parents
Consider the number of young adults that live in the home of one or more parents. There were 7.68 million Americans aged 25–34 living at home in 2021, representing an 87.4% increase over the past two decades. This figure does not account for children living in their parental home with a spouse or unmarried partner, or those living in the home of other adult relatives or non-relative caretakers.
The way Americans use their homes may also explain the increase in house size. More homes are taking on an additional role: workplace. Estimates from the American Community Survey (ACS) note that 27.6 million people worked from home by the end of 2021. That estimate is more than triple the number recorded in 2019, and the highest number and percentage (17.9%) since the ACS began recording data in 2005.
Homes today are not just designed for the number of occupants, but also for the changing ways people navigate modern life.