Americans Hunker Down in Recession

In recession, Americans are knitting, cooking, playing games and watching TV.

ByABC News
February 11, 2009, 5:39 PM

Feb. 18, 2009 — -- The recession is really hitting home, sweet home. Across the generations and income brackets, Americans say they are increasingly becoming homebodies who are reading, knitting, cooking, watching television and playing board games.

Handicraft stores are reporting a revival and companies like Netflix, which offer movie rentals by mail, have posted record profits.

Even karaoke-machine companies like Singtones are marketing to the stay-at-home crowd as what the company calls a "play-at-home alternative to 'extortionate' karaoke bars."

"In every economic downturn since the Great Depression, we see measurable increases in 'nesting' practices among Americans: eating at home more, buying more board games, renting more videos and so forth," said Rogan Kersh, associate dean and professor of public service at New York University.

"This holds true across income classes and other demographic groups: from college students to retirees, we're turning back to the home front," Kersh said.

As people hunker down, dining at home is once again chic and libraries say they are brimming with customers taking out books.

Amy Ball, 43, from Sebastopol, Calif., said she is eating out less, buying more food in bulk and planning more meals with friends at home.

"We are definitely renting more movies and reading more," said Ball, who works in Intuit's accounting group. "We used to go out two or three times a week and now we have people over."

"My husband [who works in the wine industry] is also playing more Wii 'Fit' and I am cooking more," Ball told "The economy is like nothing I have ever seen. We are more cautious now."

For the first time, Martha Chabinsky of Amherst, N.H., is budgeting, even though her husband has a secure and highly paid job in the aerospace industry and she works part time as a yoga teacher and exchange-student coordinator.

The 56-year-old grandmother took up cooking again after leaving the kitchen 20 years ago. Chabinsky said she was "burned out" after raising three children and caring for her father, who had lung cancer.

"I had started having kids in 1969, so I had been cooking forever," she told But after the economy tanked, she said, "something bizarro happened."

"Now I am cooking and actually enjoying it," Chabinsky said. "When my husband wants to go out to eat, I say, 'Eat my food. It's better.'"

Betty Dawson, 54, of New Rochelle, N.Y., confirms that she, too, is pulling back. An assistant to the vice president at New York Life, she and her husband, an electrician who is currently laid off, have cut back on the cruises and jazz concerts they once loved.