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How did the nation experience recovery and economic prosperity after World War II? Factories shifted from making wartime supplies such as ships, planes, tanks, and guns to peacetime needs. The government made sure to help returning soldiers by passing the GI Bill of Rights which give an array of benefits. Benefits such as a year of unemployment pay or providing financial aid to those who attended college. American experience a baby boom right after the war which made people assume that an economic downturn was approaching them. “In 1957, at the peak of the baby boom, one American baby was born every 7 seconds, a grand total of 4.3 million for the year.” (Section 1, Page 546) After the war the government ended it’s policy of rationing and price controls. Which caused Americans to rush out and buy large amounts of stuff after the war ended. But businesses kept up with this demand by hiring more people to make their goods. Which meant more people had money to pour right back into the economy. It became a never ending cycle. New technology, such as the computer or atomic energy, allowed businesses to be more efficient and produce more goods.
What social and economic factors changed American life during the 1950s? After World War II people moved to suburbs and the sunbelt. One of the reasons people were attracted to suburbs was the fact that the average American after the war wanted to marry and have kids. William Levitt and other people found out how to make affordable houses quickly. This method was also quicker than the usual method because they could make houses in weeks instead of the usual waiting time of months. “On the installment plan, buyers could pay $58 a month toward the cost of a home.” (Section 2, Page 553) Another benefit from the previously mentioned GI bill was low-interest loans were given out to soldiers to finance buying or building a new home.
A separate factor that changed American life was the birth of the Car culture. Almost everyone had a car in 1960s. It worked hand in hand with suburbs. If you moved out to the suburbs you would need a car to be able to commute to work or wherever you wanted to go. The vice versa applies too that if you had a car you would feel more safe in moving farther away from the city. New businesses, such as the fast-food restaurant and the drive-in movie theater, popped up to appeal to this new car culture. In 1953, President Eisenhower approved the first round of funding an interstate system. The Interstate Highway Act used 41,000 miles of highway to connect the nation’s largest cities together. The new interstates made it easier for families to take road trips to places like Las Vegas or Disneyland in southern California.
The Information industry surged into relevance during the 1950s. It contained the people who worked on the first computers. The computers were huge compared to the computers of today. But despite this sizing issue computers were used with hotels to make reservations and for banks to handle account information. Women started getting more and more involved in the workforce during 1940 to 1960. AFL and the CIO reunited to form the AFL-CIO. AFL-CIO worked to get people to join unions.
How did popular culture and family life change during the 1950s? The idea of consumerism or buying as much as they could caught on like a wildfire. Televisions were a well of culture for every American to enjoy. “In 1946, manufacturers produced fewer than 6,000 TV sets. Seven years later, Americans purchased 7 million sets and by the end of the decade, 90 percent of all households owned a television.” (Section 3, Page 561) Social scientists pushed an idea of a nuclear family, which consisted of a mother and a father and their kids. The nuclear family idea said that women had to accept their fate as a homemaker to ensure that everything would go smoothly. Family life now revolved around children because Dr. Benjamin Spock became famous from his book of Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care. Parents spent more money on their children than previous generations. They defended this behavior by saying that it benefited the economy and they were doing their part to prevent another depression.
Television was the radio of the 1950s. Television sets were selling faster than cars or radios during the 1920s. With almost everyone owning a television and tuning in to watch the new shows. It managed to solidify a mass national culture in America. Children watched shows such as Howdy Doody Show or the Mickey Mouse Club. Westerns became a famous television trend during the 1950s and early 1960s. Family sitcoms became the most noteworthy category from this time period. This included sitcoms like I Love Lucy, and Leave It to Beaver, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, and Father Knows Best.
Why were some groups of Americans dissatisfied with conditions of postwar America? Other Americans were caught in the effectiveness of advertising. That they would act like sheep and buy whatever the ads told them to buy. Some social critics criticized how Americans lost their individualism in order to fit into the larger community. That Americans had a passion for forcing conformity down each others throats. Writers released books, such as Catcher in the Rye and The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, criticizing various things in American’s lives. Despite giving off the appearance of being the wealthiest nation in the world. America still had lots of people living below the poverty line. African Americans that lived in the inner cities and the southerners such as farmers and other rural people were in poverty. Micheal Harrington released a book called The Other America which presented a hidden fact that poverty was widespread in America. “Harrington claimed that 50 million Americans, one fourth of the nation, lived in poverty. Cities suffered losses as people rushed to leave and move into suburbs. Funds and the cities’ representation left as the people flooded out of the city. Cities had to cut back on some services such as garbage removal or street repair. Which produce another cycle because this pushed more people to move into suburbs and caused more and more damage to the cities. The government tried to step and help fix the downtrend cities experienced by making urban renewal projects. These projects built more freeways but this usually backfired and didn’t help revive the city at all. The government decided to make affordable public housing that would hopefully convince some people to stay in the cities. The public housing was better than the tenement houses of yesteryear because they hot running water which was a new thing to some of the people who lived in these areas.
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