How unusual is Barbie, demographically speaking? She’s pretty special today – but almost unheard-of when she first became a homeowner in 1962.
Barbie is a young, single woman who lives in a house she owns. Let’s momentarily ignore the fact that her home is listed for $25 million exclusively on Trulia, and acknowledge that owning a house in the first place — “Dreamhouse” mansion or not — is very unusual for young women today. And it was even rarer when she originally became a homeowner in 1962. Looking back over the decades at how unusual Barbie is, demographically speaking, shows how broad social changes and the recent housing boom and bust have affected the living situations of young women.
Using U.S. Census data from 1960 to 2011 (the latest available; see note at end of post), we calculated the share of young women, aged 25 to 34, who are “living like Barbie” in that they:
In 2011, 1.6% of young women shared Barbie’s living situation in all these ways. Here’s how we arrived at that. In the 25-34 year old age group, 31% of women were single and had no kids. Among these single women with no kids, approximately one-third were the “head of household.” The rest were living in someone else’s home (such as their parents). That means 11% of young women were single with no kids and the “head of household.” Of that 11%, approximately one quarter owned their home, and the rest rented. Among the homeowners in this group, a little more than half owned a single-family, detached house, as opposed to owning a townhouse or condo. That’s how we calculated that 1.6% of young women in 2011 had a living situation similar to Barbie.
That may sound low, but the world has come a long way. Rare as it is today for young women to own a home, it was almost unheard of in 1960, one year after Barbie was introduced and two years before she became a homeowner. Back then, just 0.1% of young women owned a home – around one in a thousand. That means Barbie’s living situation was 15 times more common in 2011 than in 1960 – as the chart below shows.0 comments