Original Paper

Journal of Family and Economic Issues

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 23-48

Changing American home life: trends in domestic leisure and storage among middle-class families

  • Jeanne E. ArnoldAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, University of California Email author 
  • , Ursula A. LangAffiliated withArkin Tilt Architects

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This study of middle-class American families draws on ethnography and urban economic history, focusing on patterns of leisure time and household consumption and clutter. We trace how residential life evolved historically from cramped urban quarters into contemporary middle-class residences and examine how busy working families use house spaces. Our ethnographic sample consists of 24 Los Angeles families in which both parents work full time, have young children, and own their homes. Formal datasets include systematically timed family uses of home spaces, a large digital archive of photographs, and family-narrated video home tours. This analysis highlights a salient home-storage crisis, a marked shift in the uses of yards and garages, and the dissolution of outdoor leisure for busy working parents.


Clutter Dual-earner families Home spaces Leisure time Suburban history