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Grazing for Data

To the Editors of American Demographics:

During more than 40 years in direct marketing, I have found that many prospects can be located by their age, income, and other demographic factors. To reach lawn and garden equipment prospects, for instance, lawn or lot size is critical in determining the need for a lawn tractor or other large yard maintenance equipment. If you know of any means to correlate income and lot size, it would be a significant information breakthrough for the industry. But I'm not holding my breath.


Bob Bobowski

Senior Vice President

Wesley Day Advertising

West Des Moines, Iowa

Dear Bob:

No need to turn blue in the face. The information is available from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Housing Survey Branch. In the biannual American Housing Survey (AHS), the Census Bureau collects copious amounts of data on homes in the U.S. — including yard size. After spending some time on the phone with the AHS staff, we were able to obtain the appropriate information: a cross tab of annual household income and lot size of single-family dwellings in 1999. [Single-family dwellings account for roughly 76 percent of all occupied housing units and include attached homes (row houses), detached homes (traditional homes), and mobile homes.]

A lot of numbers

Thirty-nine percent of all single-family dwellings that sit on less than one-eighth of an acre are owned by families earning less than $25,000 a year.

Lot size *
Income: <1/8 acre 1/8-1/4 acre 1/4-1/2 acre 1/2-1 acre 1-5 acres 5 acres +
<$25,000 39% 30% 22% 26% 27% 30%
$25,000-$49,999 31% 29% 27% 26% 29% 31%
$50,000-$100,000 23% 30% 33% 31% 30% 28%
$100,000+ 8% 11% 17% 17% 14% 12%
Source: 1999 American Housing Survey

* Numbers may not add up to 100 due to rounding

According to our analysis, the relationship between income and lot size appears to be parabolic. That means Americans with the lowest median incomes are typically found on the largest and smallest plots of land. Meanwhile, those with the highest median income live on plots of land somewhere in the middle. In this case, Americans living on land between one-quarter of an acre to one-half of an acre in size have the highest median annual household income: between $50,000 and $59,999. Those living on parcels of land less than one-eighth of an acre in area have the lowest median income (between $30,000 and $34,999). Those with the second lowest median income (between $35,000 and $39,999) live on 10 acres of land or more.

Further, 6.2 million homes (8 percent of all single-family dwellings) sit atop five acres of land or more. Of those who own five acres or more, the median annual income falls between $40,000 and $49,999. However, 40 percent of landowners in this category earn $50,000 a year or more, and 12 percent have annual incomes of $100,000 and higher. Even more astounding is the number of homes surrounded by one acre of land or more: 20 million (26 percent of all single-family dwellings). Forty-three percent of the inhabitants of those homes earn over $50,000 a year, while 13 percent earn over $100,000.

Who has the largest yard? Southerners have the largest lots (0.47 acres), followed by Northeasterners (0.41 acres), Midwesterners (0.32 acres), and Westerners (0.22 acres).

John Fetto

Associate Editor

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