Industrialization in the Northeast produced great benefits and also major problems. What were they? Who benefited and who suffered? Did the benefits outweigh the problems, or vice versa?

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Industrialization at first appeared to be a great leap into the future. Tasks that had once taken laborers hours or even days to complete were now taking significantly less time with the aid of new technologies. The cost to produce products went down, and it was possible to produce more products over the same period of time. Individuals in rural areas fled to the cities for work in factories in the Northeast. This resulted in crowded tenement apartment buildings where disease was able to breed rampantly. These apartment buildings for factory workers were often extremely low-quality in exchange for low rents.

During industrialization, not only was the quality of life for workers in city housing poor, the quality of life in the work environment was poor as well. Young children were hired for little money to climb around heavy-duty machinery, risking their lives daily. Those working on assembly lines might lose a finger or hand in the machinery.

Out of the terror that was factory work at this time came important laws and policies that aimed to protect worker’s rights. Additionally, unions that could bargain for workers and their best interests were established. Before this, if someone had an issue with conditions, they could be fired and replaced the next day, as there were always more people in the cities looking for work. Perhaps most importantly, out of this period of time came educational reform: public education was expanded, pulling children out of factories and the streets and placing them in classrooms.

At first, the problems of industrialization in the US far outweighed the benefits for the majority of the population. However, in the end, not only did we progress as a society in terms of technology, we also established the foundations for many structures and policies that help our population today.

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