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What Does the American Home Look Like?

New Census Data Lets Us Peek Inside the Picket Fence

By Published on .

In the U.S., housing accounts for one in every three dollars spent. That includes rent, mortgage, utilities, furniture, cleaning supplies and related expenses, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For the lowest 20% of earners it's an astonishing 87% -- a figure that drops to under 20% for the highest earners.

Today the Census Bureau released its latest study of the U.S. housing situation, which, economics aside, has some useful takeaways for marketers that gives some clues as to how that money gets spent. For the 112 million occupied housing units in 2009:

  • The median housing unit is 36 years old
  • 66% of owner occupied units had a mortgage
  • People move most often for financial reasons (28%) and want to live near their jobs
  • Only 2% of new housing units use steam or hot water. So long, radiators
  • 48% of homes have a "dining room" but no word on how often people actually eat in them
  • One in three homes has either a spare living-room or a rec room
  • 65% of housing units had central air (89% for newer housing); 21% have window units
  • 10% of housing units still don't have a working smoke detector
  • 64% of homes have at least three bedrooms (80% of new homes)
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