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1945 - 1961 Economy and Society

1945 - 1961 Economy and Society - Economy Begins an upward...

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Economy Begins an upward surge for two reasons: (1) Consumers finally had a chance to indulge their suppressed appetites for material goods 1950 – GNP reaches $318 billion 1960 - GNP reaches $440 billion (2) Cold War: foreign aid programs financed a heavy export trade & defense spending soars 1952 defense spending is 2/3 budget ($44 billion) The baby boom and the spectacular growth of suburbia serve as great stimulants to the consumer goods industries Refrigerators, washing machines, dishwashers Automobiles – rise of the 2-car family with gasoline at $0.30/gallon, oil is abundant TVs make electricity soar along with the first computers, military electronics, and automation Problems: (1) While Sunbelt prospers, older manufacturing regions don’t fare well Agriculture suffers bumper crops and low prices (2) Unemployment rises to 7% in 1957-58 (3) Economic growth slows between 1955 and 1960 questions vitality of evonomy Workers are laboring fewer than 40 hrs/week with weekends off & two-week paid vacations Per capita disposable income rises from $500 in 1945 to $1845 in 1960 The Flight to the Suburbs “Traditional distinctions of ancestry, education, and size of residence no longer differentiated people as easily as they had” Depends on the automobile – highways, expressways allow commute to city jobs; ride buses to school Two cars become a necessity “Drive-in” culture emerges 1956 first enclosed air-conditioned mall opens – the Southdale Shopping Center Home is the focus for activities and aspirations “More space” / “comfort and roominess” / “privacy and freedom of action” “Togetherness” is the code word of the 1950s TV, vacations, community activities emerge Consequences: (1) Extended family becomes a casualty – grandparents, aunts/uncles become distant (2) Women return to the home and role of wife & mother becomes “ideal” (3) Trend toward early marriages and large families Dr. Spock, 1946, Baby and Child Care McCall’s & Good Housekeeping thrive CASE STUDY : Levittown May 7, 1947 – William Levitt announces “Levittown” to be built on Long Island, NY Consists of mass production of houses 4000 rental homes for a small amount down and low monthly payments to young couples Completed in 1951 with 17,000 homes; curving streets; neighborhood parks; playgrounds / community pools A basic house is 720 sq. ft. 2br/1bath “Cape Cod” style on concrete slab for $6990 in 1948 Nicknamed “Fertility Valley” “The Rabbit Hutch” Two more are subsequently built in Pennsylvania and New Jersey
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Towns become meccas of diversity, but African Americans are strictly excluded Symbolized the most significant trend with 46% growth “Critics were quick to disparage the quality of life in suburban society. They condemned the conformity, charging the newly affluent with forsaking traditional American individualism to live in identical houses, drive look-alike cars, and accumulate the same material possessions.” Women Number of working wives doubles from 1940 to 1960 to 40% of all American women 1/3 is married women working outside the home
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1945 - 1961 Economy and Society - Economy Begins an upward...

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