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The Great Depression in Amercia Essay

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Updated: Apr 13th, 2020

Many historians reckon the twentieth century to be a period of civilization. The world underwent major social, economic, and political changes shaping its current state. In America, there were numerous changes taking place. This was the period when America was actively engaged in war and social alterations. Form the war in Japan to the Vietnamese war, and many other political modifications, these changes destined to cross over into the 1970s and 1980s.

For example, civil movements increased in the 1970s. Here, women sought to be heard, and their views channeled into development. On the other hand, Americans became more disillusioned towards their government, and environmental conservation techniques became a talk of the day. Technologically, America made a big stride over space explorations and more advances in computer hardware and its applications.

Nevertheless, these political and social changes of the 1960s flourished in 1970s and marked a new era of political and social change. American culture continued to flourish despite social realignments, impeachment debates, and international wars. Notably, these social and political changes inspired art sceneries like music, fashion, entertainment, and literature development.

For example, America was involved in the Vietnamese war during the 1960s. However, it is not clear on the reasons why America decided to participate in the war. Many Americans were opposed to the war leading to early withdrawal from the war in 1973. This war had serious negative impacts especially to the economy of America. The government spent taxpayers’ money in sending troops to Vietnam while on the other hand, the social standards kept declining.

For instance, young people faced a dilemma when the government enacted a policy demanding anybody above 18 to go for war, or attend college and later, go for war. Consequently, student demonstrations became rampant and some crossed over to Canada to evade going to war. (Gillis, 2009, Para. 1-3).

Indeed, America experienced the greatest depression between 1940 and 1970. Although this lessened during World War II, the policies did not counter the ever-changing social and economic trends. Unfortunately, in 1973, the oil crisis paralyzed major economic changes in America. Later, manufacturing companies faced production dilemma due to oil threat. The period continued up to 1979 when America entered presidential elections.

Additionally, in the early seventies, America experienced an increasing population growth reading to social and economic stagnation- a period popularly known as ‘stagflation’. Additionally, household structures changed significantly and with women movements, women became head of families by choosing to live single. Interestingly, in the 1970s, social and economic changes went hand in hand with age, race, and sex of individual Americans.

Depending on the household-head, families line up according to the amount of revenue the breadwinners receive. Thus, demographic changes to a large extent, contributed poverty in children and women, of course with strong marginalization. (From, 2000, pp. 290-295).

After the war, the turbulent economic hindrances seemed to cascade away, and soon, America was back on economic growth. But this was not until the 1980s. The government had now embarked on economic dispensation following the election of a new president. Nonetheless, a watershed in 1973 and 1983 characterized by recession, inflation, and economic stagnation hampered the efforts of the government.

Economic normalcy did assume its normal growth when Americans decided to increase productivity and manufacturing-now that the oil crisis had gone, and market competition of goods and services. Depending on an individual’s race, sex or social demographics, poverty levels seemed to vary.

For example, nonwhites in America lived in poverty because; it was not easy for them to engage in income-generating opportunities due to disparities along ethnic and racial lines. On the other hand, families headed by females continued to increase. Conversely, according to household research, these families languished in poverty as only one provider supported the family. In families where the husband and wife worked, there was a decline in poverty levels due to shared responsibilities.

Contrary to the postwar period where marginalized groups like children and the old enjoyed economic success, in the 1970s and 1980s, these groups were the most affected. This is because; the government reconsidered social security benefits by making them stagnant. Of course with inflation and globalization, there was depletion of value leading to poverty among retirees. Consequently, children felt the hinge as most parents could not afford to buy the basic needs.

In essence, even up to today, the social and economic changes of a family depend on the working status of parents, either employed or doing business. Moreover, white families enjoyed excess revenue because; employed white Americans earned double the amount earned by black Americans.

Accordingly, this is a clear physical economic indication of a black family whose income stood at 62 percent of the white family’s income. All the same, this racial gap continued to dominate in America in the 1970s and 1980s and perhaps, even today. (De Ferranti, 2004, pp. 8-32).

In the 1970s and 1980s, America experienced changes in setting up social families where; female-headed households increased steadily among black Americans than to nonwhite and white Americans. Nevertheless, there were reasons that led to the formation of these social families. For example, single mothers with children opted through own will, to have individual households instead of getting married.

On the other hand, divorce, children out-of-marriage, and remarriages contributed to the establishment of female-headed families instead of households. Noticeably, the two decades marked serious changes in the marital behavior of Americans. For instance, many white American women decided not to remarry and on the other hand, black Americans feared marriages to avoid household responsibilities in the case of unemployment. In households, women relied on their spouses for economic support.

In the 1980s, the economic status of many Americans changed. This is because; American economy had grown and productivity increased. The oil crisis of the 1970s had passed away paving way for production and employment opportunities. The average economy of working Americans rose up steadily and many found themselves in a better state. On the other hand, persons over 65 years old were well-off economically with minimal chances of being affected by poverty.

Although these people did not work or engage themselves in productive work, their large income decline gave them an opportunity to experience an increase in revenue from other sources. On the other hand, women aged 65 and above experienced large economic decline and after that, suppressed income. Fascinatingly, the two decades saw a period of great transformation in retirement age and social benefits.

The probability of the old attending their workplaces declined heavily as many chose to retire at the age of between 55 and 59 instead of extending for five or ten more years. This is because; many Americans became attracted by the social security benefits realized after retirement. Other factors, which prompted early retirement, include deteriorating health conditions, income savings done so far, pensions, and dividends. (Evanson, 1988, pp. 1-10).

In conclusion, the socioeconomic changes in the 1970s and 1980s seemed similar. In the 1970s, Americans started experiencing a change in their economic status towards the negative side. This is because; previously, depression had taken center stage in controlling people’s economic status, and of course, the oil crisis in the 1970s suppressed production.

However, in the 1980s, when the oil crisis ceased, productivity increased hence, yielding more income to industrious Americans. Along demographic lines, poverty levels among children declined, although working Americans and old Americans enjoyed economic success. Overall, individual Americans found themselves much better economically, especially in the 1980s than in 1970s due to policy changes.

Reference List

De Ferranti, D. (2004). Inequality in America: breaking with history? Washington D.C. The World Bank.

Evanson, E. (1988). Social and economic change since the Great Depression: Studies of census data, 1940-1980. University of Wisconsin-Madison, Institute for Research on Poverty, 11(3), 1-10.

Frum, D. (2000). How We Got Here: The ’70s. New York, New York: Basic Books.

Gillis, C. (2009). American Cultural History: 1970-1979. Web.

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