Domestic Life in the 1950s Questions and Answers

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How did increased consumerism affect the 1950s? Why did consumerism grow during this era?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Increased consumerism happened because the US was on top of the world, economically, after WWII.  The Europeans were too beat up from the war to compete with the US and Japan had not emerged as a power yet.

American adults had grown up with the Depression and the War and now they were going to make up for lost time by making some money.

To me, this impacted the United States by making Americans more interested in focusing on material goods.  It made people think of success in terms of "keeping up with the Joneses."  As people got so into this, many of their children got spoiled and disenchanted and became part of the 1960s counterculture.

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brettd eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The Post-World War II economy boomed for several reasons.  Americans had saved all through rationing during the war and had money to spend on consumer goods, and we were also aggressively arming for the Cold War, which created a large number of jobs and spin off jobs that paid well.

The middle class grew significantly in this time, and a generation that had survived the Great Depression and World War II wanted to live a little.  One income in those days was enough for a family to live on and buy a house, and home ownership increased drastically, stimulating the housing market.  We saw two car families become much more common and the Big Three automakers employed hundreds of thousands, and people moved to the suburbs and took vacations every year.  We had the first credit cards in the 50s (Diners Club), and the first fast food chain (McDonald's).

Some did criticize our society, as they did in the 1920's, for being too materialistic and conformist.  Partly out of this discontent came the roots of the counterculture backlash of the 1960s.

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