Are McMansions due to Baby Boomers?

I’ve seen this suggestion before: Baby Boomers are responsible for McMansions.

For decades, demographers, marketers and pollsters have been carefully tracking baby boomer trends, from the increasing demand for classroom space during their early school years to the rise of the McMansion as they began to raise families of their own.

This could be a case of confusing correlation and causation. The average new home in the United States in the 1950s was under or around 1,000 square feet while it has risen to near 2,500 square feet in recent years. There is little question that homes have gotten bigger. At the same time, is this due to the actions of the Baby Boomers? Are McMansions really a generational issue? A few thoughts:

1. This could be related to the common argument that McMansions are symptomatic of excessive consumption. After World War II, the prosperity in the United States made possible all sorts of new and more purchases including items like houses, cars, televisions, and more. However, this consumption might cross multiple generations and be the “normal” American pattern.

2. There is recent data suggesting two things. Aging Baby Boomers will look to sell many of these larger homes in future years as they retire and downsize. At the same time, Millennials may be less interested in big houses that their parents purchased. But, might this be more about life stages than generations?

I argue it is too soon to tell whether McMansions and big homes can be closely tied to a specific important American generation or whether McMansions have cross-generational appeal. It may be beneficial to an argument to tie the homes to Baby Boomers (they get blamed for other issues, they are aging so it suggests McMansions could be on the way out, etc.) but we need to see more evidence.

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