This is the place for my rants, raves, reviews and just general "stuff". May you be amused, enlightened, and perhaps even a little pissed off.


Americans Grow To Fit Their Environment

What started as a humorous observation got me thinking about the veracity of the statement. I thought "people are getting bigger" and "houses are getting bigger", how do they relate? In this environment of Googleified immediate access to random data, I had the opportunity to go figure that out, in my own non-scientific way. Very quickly I was able to locate the data that I required to figure out whether Americans did have the tendency to grow to fit their environment. I am not picking specifically on Americans, its just that housing is typically constrained in many other places around the world. If one were motivated, they could put a finer point on this amusement by looking at regional trends in both datasets.

I'll leave the conclusions up to you. Keep in mind that this is pure amusement and not terribly scientific in any way.

The housing data can be found at:
The obesity data can be found at:


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although you could basically make two lines overlap regardless of what the numbers are just by varying the scale.

1/08/2006 05:33:00 PM

Blogger Richard Veryard said...

So all we have to do to reverse the obesity trend is to put people into smaller houses??

Further comment on the POSIWID blog.

1/08/2006 05:58:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a non-scientific explanation. Perhaps Americans have been getting richer and both their houses and their bellies expand to fit their incomes.

1/08/2006 06:43:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

might be a job for freakonomics...

1/08/2006 07:24:00 PM

Blogger Steve said...

So, what about America *isn't* getting bigger? Why choose to correlate house size with weight rather than, say, the GDP, or the sewer capacity of the average city?

1/09/2006 02:13:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hahaha, just today I was thinking about the size of Americans and the increasing size of their cars. Is there a correlation as well?

What then, about expanding highways - oh - just kidding

1/09/2006 06:42:00 AM

Blogger Dr Nic said...

Wonderful! :)

So, a non-scientific, amusing corollary could be: "As a part of a balance life-style - that is, to lose weight - move into a smaller house."


1/09/2006 10:28:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i have noticed, also, with a mix of amusement and amazement, the phenomenom you have supported with your thought has been, metaphorically speaking, that this correlative increase in space-body size and structural-reflects the distance, or disconnect, that we are creating between one another...let's assume it becomes increasingly more challenging to have meaningful human interactions, say something that looks like "intimacy" as we continue to take up, fill up and expand, the physical distances between our "core" self and others...just a thought

1/09/2006 10:34:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does this mean we can solve the obesity problem by building smaller houses?

1/09/2006 10:48:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

if only we could make houses smarter

1/09/2006 07:30:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's eye-catching, yes, but it seems disingenuous not to mention that any two upwards trends could be made to look that way, simply by scaling the axes to make the trends match.

That said...hilarious!

1/10/2006 09:39:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

in this case I would say that correlation is not causality, but I think that the overall trend towards excess and the oworkaholic sedentary lifestyle that accompanies excess are to blame.

1/10/2006 12:55:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bet that if you could find similar data on kitchen size & cost, you would see an inverse correlation with the actual use of kitchens. Kitchens are getting bigger and fancier as we are using them less and less.

1/10/2006 01:43:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In an equally non-scientific way, I'm inclined to think that the increases in home size and waistline are only related in that they reflect a certain lifestyle trend in America.

1/24/2006 08:33:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So home size has increased 10% while obesity has increased 100%? And?

With "suh-tis-tiks" and a free blog you can prove anything these days...

1/24/2006 09:43:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to replot the graph with the two data sets calibrated to some self-reflecting relationship that remains consistent. I don't really know what that means, or if that's the way to say it... maybe you get each data set to reflect the percentage increase in actual size (area or weight?). Not the percentage of fat americans by year, but the percentage increase in the actual size of the body, by year -- and the same for the houses. Then, I think, the comparison would show more. But I think that should be a job for a professional statistician.

1/24/2006 11:25:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Which comes first?
Big Americans may want big houses.

1/30/2006 12:13:00 AM

Blogger dtj said...

Ironically, my wife was upstairs designing our "dream house" when I posted this story. Currently the plan is something like 9000 square feet. I better start putting on the pounds to warrant getting a house that big.

1/30/2006 01:33:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone must be behind on their information about bigger homes!
The latest trend is to downsize, this means smaller homes and spaces. After all, how much space can one person fill?
Downsizing is just common sense!

1/30/2006 10:41:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone must be behind on their information about bigger homes!
The latest trend is to downsize, this means smaller homes and spaces. After all, how much space can one person fill?
Downsizing is just common sense!

1/30/2006 10:41:00 AM

Blogger dtj said...

Downsizing is basically a meme at this point and not supported either by the stats or by anecdotal information. Yes, for many people its probably a good idea, but it isn't happening yet, for most groups. The only people that I know that are downsizing are those who have recently retired and some of them have gotten rid of their homes altogether. In fact, I can't think of a single non-retiring person that I know in the last 10 years that has downsized. Even the retiring people, only about 25% have downsized, while the balance as upsized, sometimes significantly.

I doubt the downsizing trend will happen anytime soon. When interest rates rise, it becomes too expensive to downsize, especially if you have a large house with a lot of equity.

1/30/2006 11:50:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

With Manhattan apartments selling at over $1000 a square foot, it's no wonder we New Yorkers are skinny. Texans, take note.

1/31/2006 08:07:00 AM

Blogger Brad said...

I think the real trend is overconsumption, and that these two statistics are merely reflections of that trend.

Still, nicely executed.

2/01/2006 10:25:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just because the size of new houses is increasing and the size of American waistlines is increasing, does not mean they're correlated. Where's the data that shows they are? Logically, you'd expect it to be the opposite- people with a 10,000 square foot house have to walk a hell of a long way to reach the kitchen. All that people living in a trailer park have to do to get more ice cream is to stretch their hand out when sitting on the sofa and open the fridge. People with larger houses have more money for special diet food; for exercise programs, and are more educated about nutritional choices. When's the last time you saw an extremely obese millionare?

First rule of science: Correlation does not prove causation. Making a graph like this only shows us that you have the ability to make a graph, not that two randomly selected increasing things are related. You could select any two increasing things you wanted and make a similar chart.

For example, add a line on your chart which shows that as global warming increases, americans' waistlines increase proportionally. Then, we've proven that global warming causes American FATTness! And each year my grandmother gets older, American waistlines increase. We need to kill my grandmother in order to reverse this trend!

Another stat you've overlooked is the fact that the rates of obesity in foreign countries are rising at a quicker rate than the rates of obesity in America. And the average size of house is not increasing in Japan- their obesity is.

Could obesity be possibly related to other things your graph doesn't show- for example, the rising number of people who eat fast food more than once a month?

This graph is pure junk science.

2/02/2006 11:47:00 AM

Blogger dtj said...

Its not "junk science", as it isn't science in the least. Perhaps that is why I said,

"Keep in mind that this is pure amusement and not terribly scientific any any way."

Can't get much clearer than that. Actually it could be clearer if I typed what I meant to say and "any any" would become "in any".

2/02/2006 04:43:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree. I have a blog at about real estate real estate

10/28/2006 06:00:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This shows NOTHING.

Any two roughly linear increasing trends can be made to overlap using two parameters, namely, the slope and zero point of one of the trends.

I could just as easily correlate obesity with increasing computer speed, Chinese imports, consumer debt, or popularity of reality tv.

3/04/2007 08:25:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

These comments have been invaluable to me as is this whole site. I thank you for your comment.

7/04/2007 12:27:00 PM

Blogger bestonline323 said...

this post really makes you think...
but im not sure i agree that if we build smaller houses we're ging to be skinnier... =\

Friendswood Dream Homes

6/17/2008 10:47:00 PM


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