The average size of the American home has increased by almost 50% since the 1970s. But with growing square footage comes shrinking lawn sizes, says Atlantic associate editor Andrew McGill.
In 1978, the average house was 1,650 square feet and sat on 0.22 acres of land, according to Census Data. The average lot size is now 0.19 acres, down 13% since 1978. That might not seem like a lot, but after adjusting for houses’ bigger footprints, it appears the median yard has shrunk by more than 26 percent, and now stands at just 0.14 acres. The actual value lies somewhere between those two numbers, since a house’s square footage could include a second (or third) floor. Either way, it’s a substantial reduction.
In order to keep homes affordable while still giving Americans the bigger homes they desire, lawn acreage must be sacrificed. "Americans want both space and convenience, but the land available relatively close to job centers is expensive. This trend of larger homes and smaller lots represents the compromise between what builders can profitably build and what consumers will actually buy," says Svenja Gudell, the chief economist at Zillow.