Home Economics: A Documentary of Suburbia

An ethnographic look at the American Dream of homeownership.
Year Released
Film Length(s)
47 mins
Remote video URL


An ethnographic look at suburban sprawl and its social costs

Featured review

...of great utility to teaching on a variety of urban issues from urban planning to community and ethnic relations...HOME ECONOMICS is terrific! It bursts the bubble of the great American Dream of suburban home ownership and sensitively reveals the deep human costs of automobilization and suburbanization.
Philippe Bourgois
Richard Perry University Professor of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania


While mortgage market meltdowns and environmental crises bespeak its large scale consequences, Home Economics bursts the bubble of the American Dream of homeownership to reveal the deep human costs of suburbanization and automobilization. In candid interviews, two working mothers and a teenager speak about the social tolls of long daily commutes, racial tensions, crime, the Protestant work ethic, and the meaning of home. Subtly and sensitively, Home Economics explores the relation between the built environment and the daily lives of residents of a bedroom community outside Los Angeles whose testimony reveals a sad irony—home ownership is often achieved at the expense of the very values a home is said to represent.


HOME ECONOMICS is a stunningly original and shocking glimpse of the consequences of postmodern urbanism. It is compulsory viewing for anyone interested in the contemporary city.
Michael Dear
Professor of City and Regional Planning, UC Berkeley
A wonderful piece of contemporary Americana. This video constructs and documents...the self-delusive discourse in the contemporary suburban reaches of distinctively American aspiration.
George Marcus
Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine
HOME ECONOMICS is a pure use of the documentary format and a model of how to evoke the general from the particular.
John P. McCarthy
...filmmaker and anthropologist Jenny Cool probes delicately, gently but insistently in HOME ECONOMICS...Cool scores her artistic points through the often ironic juxtaposition of images with a steady, confident interviewing approach which eventually produces heartfelt honesty from the people with whom she speaks.
Eric Mink
New York Daily News

Awards and Screenings

Act of Video Festival, Downtown Community Television, 1995
Kaleidoscope of Cultures Ethnographic Film Festival, USC Provost's Initiative, Southern California in the World, 1999

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