A salient characteristic of the United States of America (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, microwave units and so forth (Brinkley, 2015: Brinkley, 2017). Underpinning the increase in consumerism was an increase in individual earnings as a result 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. Many middle class Americans perceived the procurement of household appliances, alongside purchasing homes and automobiles as a means of modernizing themselves.
Post-war U.S. also saw a growth in both the production and service industries. This is because the U.S. brought to bear the industrial efficiencies that it had to develop in response to the WWII effort to the manufacture of consumer goods and the introduction of novel services (Brinkley, 2017). To illustrate, the 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 ensured they relayed a constant stream of products and their utility to the consumer aided in no small part by technological advancement, especially television and cheaper color printing. Equally, the availability of affordable credit in post-war American enabled households to spend more at the time in comparison to previous decades.
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, largely middle income families, moving to suburbs where houses were not only cheap, but also affordable (Brinkley, 2015). Post-war Americans viewed the suburbia as ideal for raising their children and also 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, the minorities that flocked to the cities enjoyed lower standards of living, with the adoption of technology in lieu of human labor displacing blue collar positons and aggravating urban poverty.
The post-war boom brought to the fore various issues that brought to the fore 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 African, Latino, Asian 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 2nd World War veterans would not have access to a variety of education, entrepreneurial, housing healthcare and other compensatory benefits that their 1st 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.
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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