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  Chapter Five:


  Household Size
  Housing Starts
  Home Ownership
  Machines in the Home
  Automobiles and TVs
  Mobility and Migration



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Household Size

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U.S. households became smaller.
In 1900, barely one in a hundred Americans lived alone, and half lived in large households of six or more persons. These living patterns changed dramatically, however. Between 1900 and the end of the century, the share of Americans living alone increased from 1 percent to 10 percent, while the proportion residing in households with six or more people declined from 50 percent to 10 percent. 

One reason for the trend toward smaller households was the gradual disappearance of live-in servants and elderly parents and other relatives from family households. But the most important factor was that women had fewer children (see page 84). Although very large families were not uncommon at the beginning of the century, they were exceedingly rare at the century’s close. As late as 1940, one of nineteen births was an eighth or later birth. The comparable figure at the end of the century was one of every 219. While the baby boom of the 1950s raised the birth rate far above the level of 1940, it did not permanently restore the pattern of large families. 

As the increasing availability of contraception, sterilization, and abortion gave women effective control over childbearing, they chose to have fewer children. Reinforcing that choice were factors such as the influx of women into the labor market, rising health and educational costs, the increased incidence of divorce, ideological considerations associated with the women’s movement, and concerns about the putative effect of large populations on the environment.

Chapter 5 chart 1

Source Notes
Source Abbreviations

HS series A 343–349; SA 1999, table 72. For information about eighth or later births, see HS series B 20–27, and SA 1999, table 98.


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