America after WWII

A salient characteristic of the United States (U.S.) after World War II was the marked increase in consumerism. There was increased demand for products that included automobiles, novel home appliances like television, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, Tupperware, and microwave units among others (Brinkley, 2015: Brinkley, 2017). Underpinning the increase in consumerism was an increase in individual earnings because of the expanding economy. With more income, a growing number of American households were in a position to afford household appliances and other items that were not previously available for mass consumption. A majority of the middle class Americans perceived the procurement of household appliances, alongside purchasing homes and automobiles as a means of modernizing themselves.

The post-war U.S. also saw a growth in both the production and service industries. This is because the U.S. brought the industrial efficiencies that it had developed in response to the WWII effort to civilian use, that is, the manufacture of consumer goods and the introduction of novel services particularly in finance and banking (Brinkley, 2017). To illustrate, advertisement and credit card services are examples of industries that matured as a result of the permeation of television in American households and the automation of banking services respectively (Brinkley, 2017). On one hand, advertisers touted the usefulness of a variety of consumer products to the market aided in no small part by technological advancement, especially television and cheaper color printing. Equally, the availability of affordable credit in post-war America enabled households to spend more at the time in comparison to the previous decades.

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After WWII, the urban settlement patterns in the U.S. changed considerably with far-reaching socioeconomic and demographic implications. The baby boom that came after the war saw households, especially middle-income families move to suburbs where houses were not only cheap but also affordable (Brinkley, 2015). Post-war Americans viewed the suburbs as ideal for raising their children and offered more privacy compared to the more expensive and crammed city dwellings. With technology infringing on traditionally blue-collar undertakings like the mechanization of agriculture, cities welcomed an influx of blue-collar workers who at the time comprised of African and Latin American minorities (Brinkley, 2017). Unlike their suburbia counterparts, minorities that flocked the cities enjoyed lower standards of living, with the adoption of technology in lieu of human labor displacing blue-collar positions and aggravating urban poverty.

The post-war boom brought to the fore various issues that highlighted the socioeconomic complexities that undergirded the otherwise prosperous postwar period. Simply, the quality of life was not the same for all Americans, with minority Americans and particularly Africans, Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans experiencing high rates of poverty (Brinkley, 2017). Likewise, immigrants had at the time a difficult time integrating into the American social fabric, which still exhibited marked segregation along racial and economic lines (Hampton & Fayer, 1991). For example, minorities had difficulties in accessing mortgage and credit services because they faced marked discrimination in accessing employment opportunities. As a result, the suburbia remained homogenously Caucasian (Brinkley, 2015).

By enacting the G.I. Bill, the U.S. Congress saw to it that Second World War veterans would not have access to a variety of education, entrepreneurial, housing healthcare, and other compensatory benefits that their First World War counterparts did not enjoy. The G.I. bill, like other large Federal Government programs that included infrastructural and defense spending, stimulated the American economy. In particular, the G.I. bill ensured that WWII veterans were able to reintegrate back into the country’s economy with long term gains overall.

Conclusion

A booming postwar American economy was the result of a number of factors. The adaptation of war-time industries to consumer production resulted in an expansion of industries, created employment opportunities and contributed to the growth of urban areas. The baby boom evidenced in post-war years contributed to the growth of suburbs and the popularity of automobile ownership as well as household appliances. Equally, America’s post-war years brought to the fore challenges that minorities faced, especially with the automation of industries that resulted in the loss of blue collar jobs. Additionally, minority Americans also faced systemic discrimination in financing and housing. Still, unlike the WWI veterans, WWII veterans benefitted greatly from the G.I. bill that afforded them a wide range of educational, health and entrepreneurial benefits. 

References

Brinkley, A. (1997). The Unfinished Nation: A Concise History of the American People. Volume Two: From 1865. NYC: NY: McGraw-Hill.

Brinkley, A. (2015). American history. NYC:NY: McGraw-Hill. 

Hampton, H., & Fayer, S. (1991). Voices of Freedom: An oral history of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s through the 1980s. New York, NY: Bantam Books.

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