After World War II


After World War II, there were a lot of changes in America, especially in the 1950s. Most of the changes were economical. It all began after the veterans returned home from the war. These changes, changed the standards of a “normal” America. But even though there were some good economic changes, there was also changes in poverty levels. Poverty ended up rising.

Once the war was over, around 12 million veterans returned home to America. They were back to living their lives, but they were also in dire need to get back to their jobs. After the soldiers left for the war, there were a lot of job positions open. So, African Americans had moved up North to take those positions. Even, women were given a chance to work in factories. Also, since the African Americans went towards the North, Mexicans came up to take farming jobs. Things were fine, in an economic point of view.

So now that the veterans are home, they want their jobs back. Some employers gave them their jobs back, but others didn’t. This was because employers paid African Americans less than their “White” employees. The “whites” were angry at this and that angry would eventually turn into something big. But anyways, women were fired as well and had to go back to their household duties. Besides the fight for jobs, there was a lot more that contributed to the economic prosperity in America.

The 1950s was about more than just the coming home of soldiers. It was an era that greatly focused on family and the economic contribution they provided to improve America’s evolvement. What does that mean exactly? Well after the soldiers came home to their wives. They had a lot of “catching up” to do. As a result, women were becoming pregnant all across America. This became known as the “baby boom”. Babies were being born every 7 seconds and the population was growing. Lots of families knew that their current living situation wasn’t enough for them, so this led to a lot of them wanting to move.

Affordable housing became a prime factor for “white” Americans, especially if they were having a baby. So, when they saw that there was a neighborhood that offered such a thing, they fled to it. Lots of people, including some African Americans left the city and moved to the suburbs. These homes were built by William Levitt, who “applied the techniques of mass production to construction.” He used an assembly line method to build these houses. At first they were only available to veterans, but then they became open to others.

The suburbs soon became a popular place to live. But due to the suburbs’ population growth. Cities were basically empty and businesses in the cities weren’t making as much as they used to. When businesses lose money, so does the Government. So the government wanted to implement a way for people to get from the Suburbs, to the downtown areas in cities. New projects were put into place that focused on the construction of freeways. These freeways would help people get to the city very quickly.

Now with the implementation of these freeways, came the need of transportation. That’s where the production of cars come back in. Cars stopped being built during the war, and now with the population growing and the freeways being built, they are in dire need of a car. The rate of cars being bought were very high. Around 58 million cars were registered. But cars are not the only thing that pushed the economic levels in America. Due to the popularity of the suburbs, the government took this as an opportunity to help expand it.

With most people living in the suburbs, it started to grow and new businesses were being created. Malls, schools, and new jobs were opening up. Even furniture stores were making a lot of money due to a lot of people wanting to decorate their new home. Besides that, with all of the new jobs opening up around the suburban areas, many people had lots of opportunities to get a job. This particularly benefited women. Aside from being a housewife, they were able to work in shops and in offices. But most women were full time housewives.

As the years progressed, so did American traditions. Families all across America were each held up to a standard in society. Families were accustomed to having dinner together EVERY night. In America this was seen as a normal thing for a happy American family. A family that doesn’t eat together was seen as a broken household. Also, it was normal for every household to have a television in their home. Families would get together and watch whatever was on TV. Television was the one thing in America that was highly requested in households.

Televisions were one of the things that brought families closer together every night. Everyone would gather around the television and watch whatever was showing. There was around 200,000 televisions sold in America. Asfore the channels on the televisions, it was very limited. Around that time there weren’t as many channels like today. The most that was probably available were at least four channels.
Besides all of the economic growth due to a high demand of cars, televisions, furniture, baby products, etc. The 1950s also dealt with poverty. Poverty hit a lot of people due to race, gender, and age. While others were evolving with the times, there were still people trying to fight for a better income.

During the 1950s, poverty was rising and it was at one of its highest points in years. How can the poverty rate be high when America is growing economically. America was growing mainly to benefit the “white” Americans. America was still not including African Americans and other minorities in this prosperity. They all still lived in a segregated society, which is supposed to be “separate but equal”, but the truth is that it is not equal.

During the war, African American men fought alongside white men. When it came to war, they could kind of put their differences aside and be as equals. Now when the war ended and they were sent home, they expected a change. Black soldiers expected to soon be treated as equals like they were while fighting in the war. Unfortunately, after they got back and the “white” soldiers saw that their jobs were taken by African Americans, this started a fire in them. Those same soldiers forgot every good thing about their black counterparts and began hating them again. There goes the soldiers will to help them fight for equality.

Even though African Americans had jobs, don’t forget that they were barely paid anything. So poverty was very common for them. With the United States being segregated there were not a lot of equal economic opportunities out there for them, like there were for the “white man”. It was hard enough before for them to even have the same rights as the “whites” but now they kind of do and they are still fighting for it.

Now back to how the “white” men are angry about losing their jobs. Well, a bunch of them have gathered together to go on job strikes. This means that they are protesting outside of their old jobs, so they can get their jobs back. Strikes end up affecting employers’ businesses in a bad way; they end up losing customers and money. So employers have no use, but to fire the African Americans. Strikes do end up spreading across the nation and more African Americans do end up being fired as well. The more jobless men in America, the higher the poverty rate goes up. This wasn’t the only contribution to America’s poverty level rising. It was also due to the migration of most African Americans to the cities.

While most of the middle class “white” people left to go live in the new and popular suburbs, African Americans moved to the cities in hope of better economic opportunities. Unfortunately, their hopes were soon crushed. Cities were declining economically because the middle class were the ones that paid a large share of the taxes. Since there was no one to cover most of the taxes in the cities, they were basically being neglected. Garbage wasn’t being collected and the streets weren’t being repaired. This also hurts them politically because the government was more focused on giving representation in the state legislation and the natural government, to the suburbs due to its popularity. There is a political and economic strain on the cities.
With no one really paying attention to the cities, crime rates rise in the new “inner city”. The Federal government did try to reverse the downward trend in American cities with their new “urban renewal” projects. It consisted of them, destroying old housing and building freeways to get more people to come there and build the city’s economy back up. Unfortunately, it did more harm than good. The project ended up driving people out of their homes and into other crowded neighborhoods, looking for a place to live. This upset many of the residents and the federal government had to come up with something to help out the residents.

After seeing how they weren’t really helping the people in the city, they decided to build public housing. This at first was a godsend to the residents who lived there. Rent was cheap and they had hot running water. But besides all of that, the public housing put a greater concentration on poverty. Unfortunately, this still increased the crime rate.

Aside from Urban poverty, there was rural poverty as well. “Coal miners in Appalachia and Farmers in remote areas were left behind as others prospered, and often their economic situation got worse as time passed.” Millions of farmers left their farms to work in the city, instead they ended up joining the rest of the poor residents in the city. The numbers of farms ended up shrinking and so did the income.

Besides African Americans suffering from poverty, there were also Native Americans, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans and more that were going through it as well. Native Americans were forced into poverty by the government. The government had enacted the “termination policy” which sought to end their tribal governments and forced them to relocate to cities in the nation. It even took away the government’s support for their health insurance and welfare. This was supported by some Native Americans, but others thought that it would make things worse, and it did. Poverty was already severe to them before the new policy, but now it’s an epidemic among terminated Indians.
When it comes to Puerto Ricans, they have the same problems as African Americans. When they migrated to New York City, they were clustered together in the poorest “inner city” neighborhoods. They also didn’t have a lot of job opportunities due to their language barrier. Little to none political power was given to them and the government didn’t really care to help them out in any way, shape, or form. They weren’t even given an opportunity for a better education. Latinos were fighting for their rights in America, as much as African Americans were.

Asfore Mexicans, the government somewhat helped them out. There was a “bracero” program to help address the shortage of agricultural workers. A “bracero” is a Mexican migrant farmworker in the United States. They were given temporary visas, which was a plus. But the program was not as great as it seemed. Mexicans were exploited and cheated by their employers. They had little power, so if they complained about it, they could be deported. A U.S labor department worker called the program “legalized slavery”. One man, Ernesto Galarza, saw this as an opportunity to help form labor Unions for Mexican farm laborers.

Even though there was a lot of economic prosperity in the 1950s, there was also a lot of poverty. The migration of the “white” middle class to the suburbs, and the firing of African Americans, contributed in the uprising of the poverty rate to 22%. The suburbs prospered while the cities were deteriorating and neglected. Not even the government’s projects and policies made it any better. Instead, they just made it worse for the poor minorities. One program just drove people out of their homes and either left them homeless or stuck in a crowded neighborhood.

Overall, the government is to blame for the poverty in America. It is their job to help U.S citizens and create more job opportunities throughout the nation. They only did one good thing and that was building public affordable housing in the “inner cities”, but even though it was a nice gesture, it didn’t help with anything. It just brought a magnifying glass up close to their living situations and expanded on it. Cool that they have a place to live, but what about income? The government is so focused on opening new malls, schools, and jobs in the suburbs, that they can’t even take the time to do it in the city. The point of constructing the freeways were supposed to bring people from the suburbs to the cities due to businesses. But by opening up the same businesses that were in the city, in the suburbs, they kind of ruined the purpose of the freeways. No one is eager to go to the cities now. So therefore, it is the government’s fault and it takes them until 1973 to get the poverty level as low as 11.1%.

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