The late 19th century industrial expansion in the aftermath of the Civil War established the foundation that set the United States on a course to become the dominant nation in the world in the 20th...

The late 19th century industrial expansion in the aftermath of the Civil War established the foundation that set the United States on a course to become the dominant nation in the world in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Did industrialization alter American demographics as more people left farms and rural areas and moved to large cities in order to find work?   Explain.

Asked on by avcoats007

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

In my mind, there is no question that the industrialization of the United States led to demographic change.  There were at least three different aspects to this demographic change.  As your question suggests, part of the change was geographic as more people moved to cities.  In addition, there was an increase in overall population size and an eventual decrease in the size of the American family.  All of these changes can be attributed in large part to industrialization.

Industrialization tends to go hand in hand with urbanization.  Factories are typically built in cities where there is access to a large pool of potential workers.  As industrialization continues and more factories are built, the cities start to act as magnets for workers from rural areas.  Those workers are drawn to the cities in search of jobs.  Industrialization also tends to reduce the amount of labor needed in rural areas (as farming becomes more mechanized), thus pushing people out of the country and towards the city.  In the United States, these trends were bolstered by immigration.  As America industrialized waves of immigrants came to the country seeking work in the factories.  This, too, increased the size of American cities.  By 1920, more than half of all Americans lived in urban areas.  In this way, the industrialization of the United States changed its demographics in terms of where people lived.

Industrialization also helped to increase the size of the population.  When industrialization occurs, countries tend to become richer.  When countries become richer, populations tend to grow as better medical care becomes available and as people live less strenuous lives.  The population of the US grew with industrialization, partly because of the factors just mentioned and partly because the industrialization attracted immigrants to the country. 

Finally, industrialization contributed to the decline in the size of the American family.  When people live in rural areas (and in relatively primitive conditions), they tend to have more children.  This is because children are economically beneficial to farmers, particularly those who lack technology.  This sort of farming is labor-intensive and children can be used as a source of labor, particularly as they get older.  When people move to the cities and stop farming, children are less of an economic benefit.  They are less able to help the family economically and family sizes tend to decline.  This does not happen right away, but it does happen.  The decline in family size in the United States has made it so that our population only grows through immigration today.

Thus, industrialization clearly led to demographic change.  It increased the overall population of the country, caused more of that population to live in cities, and helped to reduce the size of the typical American family. 

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rachellopez | Student, Grade 12 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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Industrialization definitely made some huge changes in America. Industrialization allowed cities to be built due to the mass production of steel. This allowed more factories to be built, providing more jobs in the city. This increased the population in cities because people needed work that could not be done efficiently on family farms anymore. The skyscrapers also allowed more buildings to be built in a smaller area, due to them being taller rather than wider. So many people were now able to live in America because of this. 

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avcoats007 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

Thank you, rachellopez.  I needed just a bit more detail to pull together my response.  I appreciate your contribution, though, and applaud your valedictory achievements!  

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