Describe the impact of the "second industrial revolution" on American business, workers, and consumers. Which technological and economic changes had the biggest impact on American society?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The “Second Industrial Revolution” in the United States is generally defined as the changes in the economy that came about after the Civil War.  This “revolution” is often said to have lasted up until the time of World War I.  The Second Industrial Revolution had many impacts on the groups that you mention.

For example, the changes of this revolution helped some businesses and hurt others.  This was a time when a few businesses became huge.  It was the time when the “robber barons” figured out ways to make their businesses much more profitable and were, thereby, able to outcompete many other businesses.  The other businesses typically disappeared.  In other words, some businesses boomed while others were unable to compete and ended up dying off.

Consumers were also helped and hurt by the changes of this revolution.  In some ways, the revolution was very good for them.  The boom in railroads meant that any sort of good could be transported to any part of the United States.  This meant that more people could have more sorts of consumer goods.  On the other hand, the ceaseless search for lower costs meant that businesses cut corners.  This led to businesses doing things like selling foods that were impure or things that were unsafe.  Here, too, the impact was good in some ways and bad in others.

Finally, the impact on workers was also mixed.  We typically think about workers who were underpaid and who had to work in harsh conditions in the factories.  But this was also a time when a middle class started to thrive.  Some workers were being helped by the increases in productivity and the higher wages that came with them.  Thus, workers were also impacted in a variety of ways.

What all this means is that we cannot say that the Second Industrial Revolution impacted the US in just one way.  This was a revolution that brought both benefits and harm to various parts of society.