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The basic idea of this chapter is that America was entering something of a Golden Age by the end of the 1950s. Patterson is saying that, by about 1957, everything seemed to be looking up for Americans.
Patterson puts his emphasis here on material aspects of life in America. He looks at the strength of the economy, which was really booming due to such things as cheap oil and the advantage the US still had over Europe and Japan because of WWII. He outlines how Americans had many more things on which to spend their money. These are things like houses and cars and spectator sports and even fast food restaurants.
Things were getting better outside of economics as well. Patterson talks about advances in medicine, for example, as polio had been drastically reduced as a problem during the 1950s. Ethnicity (at least among white people) was disappearing as a source of important discrimination.
Patterson does spend some time looking at indications that the prosperity was not complete and that problems were on the horizon, but the main thrust of this chapter is that the late '50s was a time of great optimism in the US.
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