Home Economics

 Home Economics describes an area of study and a group of related professional occupations, both of which aim at improving the quality of life of individuals and families by encouraging the effective management of personal resources, eg, time, money and consumer goods.

The study of home economics, which is based on both social and physical sciences, originated at the turn of the century in the US at a series of meetings of academics and national leaders in Lake Placid, NY, who were seeking remedies for the social ills of the day. Ellen Richards, who advocated the idea of "applying science for use in everyday life", is considered by many to be the founder of the field. At the Fourth Lake Placid Conference in 1902 a committee developed the first and often quoted definition of home economics: "the study of the laws, conditions, principles and ideals concerned with man's immediate physical environment and his nature as a social being and specially the relation between those two factors." One of the members of this committee was a Canadian, Alice A. CHOWN of Kingston, Ont.

At the same time, in Canada, Adelaide HOODLESS was promoting the establishment of what was then called domestic science. She headed the first program at U of T and was founder of the Women's Institute (see FEDERATED WOMEN'S INSTITUTES OF CANADA), an organization that had a close association with home economics in its earlier days.

The Macdonald Institute, founded at Guelph in 1903, offered vocational work in home economics as well as courses for home economics teachers. It was not until 1948 that the Institute offered its 4-year degree program. In the 1960s the institute revised its curriculum in recognition of an increasing need in society for consumer education. It was also evident that the needs of the food industry would be better met through the study of the behavioural aspect of nutrition, eg, product development, consumer acceptance and institutional food-service management. Instructors were imported from other areas (eg, anthropology) to fill out the new specializations. In 1969 the Macdonald Institute dissolved. The university then created the College of Family and Consumer Studies. In 1998, the College of Family and Consumer Studies and the College of Social Science at Guelph merged to become the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences.

In high schools in some Canadian provinces the study of home economics is now called FAMILY STUDIES, reflecting an emphasis on the study of family living and family relationships. The 2 largest university programs in home economics are offered at U of Man and U of Guelph. A new undergraduate program introduced at Manitoba in 1980 offers courses in textiles, family studies and food and nutrition. Enrolment increased from 120 to 671 by 1993. At U of A, the next largest home economics training institute, the options offered to graduates now include dietetics, consumer studies, family studies, and clothing and textiles.

The U of T Faculty of Household Science was replaced by the department of nutritional sciences in the Faculty of Medicine. In 1972, Ryerson developed a 4-year degree program in nutrition and consumer and family studies. At U Laval programs are offered in diététique, consummation et économie familiale, while at the U de Moncton programs are offered in nutrition et études familiales.

In 1994, 16 universities across Canada were offering undergraduate programs in home economics and its related fields. Most of these same universities are also offering programs in home economics at the graduate level.

Graduates of 4-year degree programs in home economics (or equivalent programs) are eligible to join the national professional organization, the Canadian Home Economics Assn, and to work as home economists. Many graduates also join provincial and local organizations. The graduates are usually employed in professional or in business situations, eg, food companies, utility companies, supermarkets, home-equipment manufacturers, etc. Some home economists free-lance; others work in the media and in advertising, product promotion and testing.

A large number of home economists teach in high schools and work in community related activities. In addition many work as credit and family counsellors.