American Consumers Newsletter

by Cheryl Russell, Editorial Director, New Strategist Press
February 2007

All Our Stuff

1. Hot Trends: ALL OUR STUFF
4. Books by New Strategist: The all new AMERICAN SEXUAL BEHAVIOR, and updates of BEST CUSTOMERS, HOUSEHOLD SPENDING, and the popular WHO’S BUYING REPORTS


Married couples with preschoolers spend nearly four times more than the average household on closet and storage items.



All Our Stuff

Want to know how much stuff Americans have? We have so much stuff that our homes are no longer adequate to contain it. We have so much stuff that millions of Americans rent self- storage lockers to house their accumulation. We have so much stuff that every man, woman, and child in the United States could fit inside the nation’s self-storage space, according to the Self Storage Association ( The association estimates that there are 2 billion square feet of rentable self-storage space in the United States. How much is 2 billion square feet? This much:

  • 72 square miles, or three times the size of Manhattan
  • 17.2 square feet for every household in the United States
  • 6.9 square feet for every person in the United States

Self-storage has grown into a mammoth industry for two reasons. One, the sheer size of the United States makes space itself so inexpensive that it is cost effective for us to rent more space rather than edit our belongings. Two, our affluence has turned shopping into a recreational sport. Nine percent of American households rented space in a self-storage facility in 2005, up from 6 percent in 1995, according to the Self Storage Association.

The accumulation of stuff is not uniquely American, but a function of our vast geography. The United States is one of the largest countries in the world, ranking third in square miles behind Russia and Canada. If Europeans had as much space per capita, they too would be filling self- storage lockers.

Many of us bemoan our crowded closets, cluttered desktops, and garages with no room for cars. Not only do we have more stuff than ever before, but we are increasingly inclined to think we cannot live without it. When asked whether 14 different consumer products are luxuries or necessities, a growing share of the public calls them necessities according to the Pew Research Center ( Automobiles, clothes washers, clothes dryers, air conditioners, microwave ovens, television sets, automotive air conditioning units, and home computers are all necessities, according to the majority of the public. (Perhaps thanks to global warming, the percentage of Americans who call air conditioning a necessity leaped from 51 to 70 percent during the past decade.) Cell phones almost make it onto the list, with 49 percent saying they are a necessity.

Only one thing will bring an end to our ever-growing accumulation of stuff: the price of land must rise to the point where we can no longer afford to rent space just to store our belongings. With the U.S. population passing the 300 million mark recently, you may think we are nearing that point. But we have a long way to go before our population density reaches European levels and accumulation is curtailed. How many Americans would it take for our population density to equal that of, say, Germany? Two billion.

By Cheryl Russell, editorial director, New Strategist Publications
If you have any questions or comments about the above editorial, e-mail New Strategist at



Thanks to tax preparation software, average household spending on accounting fees fell 15 percent between 2000 and 2004, after adjusting for inflation.

2. Q & A

Who Does the Laundry?

Most women are now in the labor force, and men are doing more around the house than they used to. But women still shoulder the burden for a variety of household chores. Which chores are most likely to be done by women rather than men?

Number one is the laundry. On an average day, 27 percent of women do the laundry compared with a much smaller 6 percent of men, according to a New Strategist analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey. On an average day, women are 4.5 times more likely than men to do the laundry. Which women are most likely to be found in the laundry room? Not surprisingly, women aged 35 to 44–the ones with the most children at home–do the laundry most frequently. On an average day, 35 percent of women aged 35 to 44 can be found in the laundry room, making laundry the tenth most time consuming activity for women in the age group. Those doing the laundry spend more than one hour washing, drying, and ironing clothes.

Other chores predominantly shouldered by women are housecleaning and kitchen cleanup after a meal. On an average day, 37 percent of women and 12 percent of men clean the house. Thirty-three percent of women and 10 percent of men clean up in the kitchen after a meal.

Some household chores are more likely to be tackled by men, such as lawn care. On an average day, 12 percent of men and 9 percent of women spend time caring for their lawn, garden, or houseplants. Men are still more likely than women to work at a paying job. Fifty-two percent of men and 40 percent of women work at a paying job on an average day (these figures include both weekdays and weekends). Among those working, men spend 7.76 hours on the job, women a shorter 6.92 hours.

For more about time use, look for New Strategist’s new reference American Time Use: Who Spends How Long at What, available in June 2007. If you have any questions or comments about the above Q & A, e-mail New Strategist at



The 55 percent majority of American women aged 15 to 44 think gays and lesbians should have the right to adopt children. Among men, a smaller 47 percent agree.


To keep up-to-date on ever-changing demographics and lifestyles, check out these useful web addresses.

The prison population prisons.htm
More than 2 million people were in federal, state, or local prisons in 2005. At this web site you can access the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ annual report on the prison population. Some interesting nuggets from the report: 1 in 136 U.S. residents is in prison or jail; the prison population is increasing at an average annual rate of 3.3 percent; and 8 percent of black men aged 25 to 29 are in prison.

Falling homeownership rate
At this Census Bureau address you can access the most up-to-date statistics on homeownership from the bureau’s Housing Vacancy Survey. The numbers show the homeownership rate continues to fall. In 2006, 68.8 percent of householders in the United States owned their home, down from a peak of 69.0 percent in 2004. The rate was higher in 2006 than in 2000 for all but the 45-to-54 age group, however.



Percentage of women who have ever considered adopting a child: 33. Percentage of women who have ever adopted a child: 1.

4. NEW FOR WINTER 2006/2007

NEW TITLE: American Sexual Behavior: Demographics of Sexual Activity, Fertility, and Childbearing is a groundbreaking new title that brings you the facts about reproductive health and family formation in the United States. Its eleven chapters cover sexual initiation and orientation, AIDS and STDs, cohabitation and marriage, fertility and infertility, pregnancy, births, caring for children, and much more. ($89.95; ISBN 978-1-933588-09-4)

NEW EDITION: The fourth edition of Best Customers: Demographics of Consumer Demand reveals the best customers for hundreds of products and services ranging from alcoholic beverages to gasoline, bedroom linens, and cell phone service. It identifies which households spend the most on a product or service and which control the largest share of spending. ($89.95; ISBN 978-1-933588-06-3)

NEW EDITION: The eleventh edition of the annual Household Spending: Who Spends How Much on What gives you detailed analyses of consumer spending on hundreds of products and services by the demographics that count–age, income, household type, region of residence, race and Hispanic origin, and education. The book begins with an overview chapter, then goes on to examine spending on apparel, entertainment, financial products and services, food and beverages, gifts, health care, household operations, shelter and utilities, transportation, personal care, reading, education, and tobacco. ($94.95; ISBN 978-1-933588-05-6)

NEW EDITIONS: The updated Who’s Buying Series, which is based on the new eleventh edition of Household Spending, gives you even more demographic detail about how much Americans spend by the demographics that count–age, income, household type, race and Hispanic origin, region of residence, and education. To round out the spending picture, you also get “who are the best customers” analyses of the data.

  • Who’s Buying Apparel, 2nd ed. ($59.95; ISBN 1-978-933588-08-7)
  • Who’s Buying Alcoholic and Nonalcoholic Beverages, 3rd ed. ($59.95; ISBN 1-978-933588-11-7)
  • Who’s Buying Entertainment, 3rd ed. ($59.95; ISBN 1-978-933588-12-4)
  • Who’s Buying Groceries, 4th ed. ($59.95; ISBN 1-978-933588-13-1)
  • Who’s Buying Health Care, 3rd ed. ($49.95; ISBN 1-978-933588-14-8)
  • Who’s Buying Household Furnishings, Services, and Supplies, 4th ed. ($59.95; ISBN 1-978-933588-15-5)
  • Who’s Buying Information, 3rd ed. ($59.95; ISBN 1-978-933588-08-7)
  • Who’s Buying for Pets, 4th ed. ($49.95; ISBN 1-978-933588-17-9)
  • Who’s Buying by Race and Hispanic Origin, 2nd ed. ($59.95; ISBN 1-978-933588-18-6)
  • Who’s Buying at Restaurants and Carry-Outs, 4th ed. ($49.95; ISBN 1-978-933588-19-3)
  • Who’s Buying Transportation, 3rd ed. ($59.95; ISBN 1-978-933588-20-9)
  • Who’s Buying for Travel, 3rd ed. ($49.95; ISBN 1-978-933588-21-6)
  • Who’s Buying: Executive Summary of Household Spending, 2nd ed. ($59.95; ISBN 1-978-933588-22-3)

You can order online at, where you can also see tables of contents and sample pages. Or call toll free 800/848-0842 (or 607/273-0913), fax your order to 607/277-5009, or mail your order to New Strategist Publications, P.O. Box 242, Ithaca, NY 14851.



Percentage of unmarried women aged 20 to 24 who are virgins: 17.