How did urban life change during the Gilded Age? How did economic development affect residential patterns?
Also, How did the middle class aspire to live during the Gilded Age? How did their lifestyle compare with those of working-class urbanites?
The major change in urban life during the Gilded Age is that there was just so much more of it -- the number of people living in American cities boomed.
Economic development, and the development of public transit changed residential patterns by moving the more affluent out to the suburbs while the poorer people were stuck near to the factories where they worked.
The middle classes aspired to live more like the rich, as usual. The working class lived in much more crowded conditions than the middle class -- this is the era of the famous city tenements.
A period in history of USA comprising of about 50 years starting from late nineteenth century was that of rapid industrialization. This era was described by American author Mark Twain as “The Gilded Age” Referring to newly rich people this period. These people lacking in tradition tried to imitate the culture of wealthy Europeans. The culture of ordinary people of that era was, however, quite different. They enjoyed visiting fairs, circus, vaudeville shows, and sporting events. They enjoyed viewing in exhibitions the new products and machine reflecting America’s progress. After 1900 cinema also began attracting peoples interest.
This period led to rapid urbanization of America. The percentage of people living in urban area increased sharply from 25 percent in 1870 to 50 percent in 1916. But there was wast difference in the life of rich and poor. A small percentage of wealthy people lived life of luxury. A larger population of middle class people, which constituted of owners of small businesses, and people employed as managers in factories and businesses, lived comfortably. But a huge majority of poor people lived in extreme poverty in dismal and drab conditions. These poor people worked minimum 60 hours a week on very low pay (about 20 cents an hour) without any fringe benefits. They lived in overcrowded slums with very poor sanitary condition. Many children had to work as wages earned by adult members of the family was often not sufficient for subsistence of the whole family. Overwork, poor diet, and poor sanitation led to high rate of diseases and early death.
American farmers in this era were also not much better off as compared to the urban poor class. Although advances in farming techniques and farm equipments increased the farm outputs, a large portion of the gains of such improvement was taken away by middlemen including owners of railways, mills, and gins.