Student Question

Compare the societal changes between the 1920s and the 1950s.

Quick answer:

The 1920s and 1950s in the United States were both marked by material prosperity, conservative governments, and concerns about radical influences. However, the 1950s saw greater U.S. involvement in world affairs compared to the isolationist stance of the 1920s, and the decade did not end in an economic bust like the 1920s did.

Expert Answers

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These two decades were, in the United States, quite similar in many ways.  As some examples:

  • Both were times of "booms" in material prosperity.  During both times, people were getting richer.  In both cases, it was accompanied by a concern among some that people did not care enough about anything but material well-being.
  • Both were times in which there was some degree of concern about radical influences in the United States.  There were the Palmer Raids and the immigration restrictions in the 1920s and there was McCarthyism in the '50s.
  • Both were times of conservative government.  In both times, government was not trying to involve itself to any great extent in the economy or in reforming society.

However, there were some differences.  These include:

  • The US was much more involved in world affairs in the '50s.  1920s America was isolationist while 1950s America was leading the free world in the Cold War.
  • There was no "bust" at the end of the 1950s like there was at the end of the 1920s.

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