The Great Depression and World War II
The Great Depression and World War II cast long shadows over American life in the 1940s. During the 1930s President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal created a sense of economic optimism and eased the suffering of many, but it did not eradicate poverty or solve the economic crisis. In 1941 as many as 40 percent of all American families lived below poverty level. Nearly eight million workers earned less than the legal minimum wage. Another eight million Americans were unemployed, and the median income was only $2,000 per year. While the economic picture improved during the 1940s, the sense of crisis created by the Depression permanently altered lifestyles and attitudes. The so-called depression mentality of fear and economic caution marked an entire generation, even as the economy boomed after World War II.
America at War.
World War II presented a new series of demands and dislocations that further reconfigured personal life. Most immediately, the armed forces conscripted ten million men, including fathers, after 1943. The war effort demanded stepped-up production at home to equip the military and maintain civilian needs. The Gross National Product and manufacturing output doubled in the war, as American industry limited or suspended production of consumer goods to devote its efforts to making weapons...
(The entire section is 2033 words.)
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