What is the definition of home economics? You’ve probably heard of it — it’s the old school class where they taught all the females in school how to take care of their homes and families, right?

That evaluation would have been accurate in the 19th and 20th centuries. Home economics, or simply homemaking, was an important component of remedial education, particularly for young women. However, home economics began to decline in the latter half of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. Schools began to place a greater emphasis on college preparation, putting home economics on the back burner. [1]

Educators see a need for home economics

Basic life skills should be taught at school, according to some educators. In a 2018 opinion post for Dallas News, Marti Harvey, a lecturer at the University of Texas in Arlington, argues that it’s past time to bring back home economics. [2]

“It’s a failing of our educational system that students don’t leave high school with this basic understanding, among other things,” Harvey wrote. “That’s why we need to bring back the old home economics class. Call it “Skills for Life” and make it mandatory in high schools. Teach basic economics along with budgeting, comparison shopping, basic cooking skills and time management. Give them a better start in real life than they get now.”

It sounds like a legitimate judgment, and it echoes the feelings of some older Americans who are amazed at how uneducated the younger generations are. Does data support this in the same way that anecdotal evidence does?

Are young people really helpless?

Let’s start with one of the most basic skills that everyone should know: changing a tire. We’ve certainly all been in a scenario where we needed to replace a tire, but do you know how to do it?

According to a poll conducted by Cooper Tires, 74% of Americans can repair a flat tire. Moreover, contrary to prevalent belief that young people lack the abilities necessary to change a flat, younger Americans reported knowing how to change a flat more than older Americans. In comparison to 71 percent of baby boomers and 67 percent of the silent generation, 78 percent of Gen Xers and 77 percent of Millennials said they knew how to fix a flat tire. [3]

70% of Generation Z, whose age range is presently 8 to 23 years old, reported knowing how to change a flat. 

So, although knowing how to replace a tire is almost universal, what about cooking? One of the most important aspects of home economics was knowing how to cook. You’d think that without home economics class, cooking would be on the decline, but according to a research published in Biomed Central, the prevalence of home cooking is on the up. [4]

Who’s doing the household stuff?

According to the report, between 2013 and 2016, the percentage of college-educated males who cooked increased from 37.9% to 51.9 percent. Cooking is also more common among college-educated women, up from 64.7 percent to 68.7 percent during the same time span.

Does this imply that home economics lessons are no longer necessary? Not everyone is in agreement. Tommy John, a men’s underwear manufacturer, polled 1,000 people to find out which domestic activities they could handle on their own. Their findings hint to a society where the majority of people are lacking in fundamental housekeeping skills — at least without the aid of Google. [5]

Tommy John discovered that one in three people can’t handle fundamental domestic duties on their own, that males are 1.6 times more likely than women to lack vital skills, and that most people would prefer pay for laundry services than do their own.

According to their findings, 56% understood how to iron a shirt, 47% knew how to remove clothing stains, 46% knew how to read laundry tag symbols, 45% knew how to sew a button, and just 12% knew how to tailor garments.

Young people need help in the workplace

A 21st-century home economics program may need to do a lot more than educate individuals how to manage their households. According to a poll of 3,000 businesses done by the British Chambers of Commerce, 90 percent of young people who have graduated from high school are unprepared for work. They say nearly half of college grads are in the same boat. [6]

Work experience should be taught in secondary schools in the UK, according to the chambers, to assist pupils learn about being resilient, communicating well, and working as part of a team. Many organizations believe that, while younger staff are frequently needed, hiring one is a dangerous gamble because of these flaws.

Home economics for the 21st century

There is a lot of evidence indicating younger generations are more skillful than older generations, and quite simply, the reverse is true. What is obvious is that the life skills required of young people in the twenty-first century differ significantly from those required of young people in the nineteenth century. If home economics is reinstated, the curriculum should be completely overhauled.


  1. Is Home Economics Class Still Relevant?” Smithsonianmag.com. Jesse Rhodes. Accessed November 30, 2020.
  2. Bring back home economics class because our kids lack basic life skills.” Dallas News. Marti Harvey. Accessed November 30, 2020.
  3. Detailed Cooper Tires Survey Findings.” Cooper Tires. Accessed November 30, 2020.
  4. Who’s cooking? Trends in US home food preparation by gender, education, and race/ethnicity from 2003 to 2016.” Biomed Center. Lindsey Smith Taillie. Accessed November 30, 2020.
  5. Home Improvement: 32% of Americans Lack Basic Household Skills.” Tommy John. Accessed November 30, 2020.
  6. Young people lack workplace skills, firms say in survey.” BBC News. Accessed November 30, 2020.
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