Growth of the Middle Class The availability of affordable consumer goods, coupled with new methods for purchasing them, meant most American workers were part of a growing middle class
Between 1923 and 1929, American workers saw their real income rise by 11 percent
Americans as consumers • Mass-produced, inexpensive consumer goods and new labor-saving machines– refrigerators, washing machines, and electric appliances of all kinds–allowed middle-class Americans in the 1920s to improve their standard of living. • The good life, however, eluded thousands of farmers as mechanized farm equipment such as the tractor created a glut of produce that sent farm prices spiraling downward.
Not all people thrived • miners out of work as the demand for coal dropped. • Changes in fashion–rising hemlines and a new demand for silk stockings–caused cotton prices to plunge and many textile factories in the Northeast and South to shut down. • By some estimates, a third of American families lived below minimum levels for a decent life.
Impact of the Automobile • Automobile manufacturing became America’s biggest industry during the 1920s and soon boosted the entire economy. Besides creating new businesses–garages, filling stations, and more–the automobile changed the face of the country. Villages along the new automobile routes thrived, while villages along the railroad lines began to disappear.
The car culture • Owning an automobile became part of the American dream. Eager to drive a car, people put down a deposit and paid off the balance, plus interest, in installments. • The car changed American culture. Dating habits of young people, Sunday outings of families, places where people lived and vacationed, and ways people shopped–all were affected by the automobile.
Debt • Most Americans no longer looked at debt as shameful. Installment buying seemed an easy way to raise the standard of living. • Americans did much of their buying at chain stores, now made accessible by the automobile.
Advertising and media • Even with credit and chain stores, Americans’ purchases could barely keep pace with the factories’ explosion of new goods. To keep consumer demand high, advertising sprang into prominence. • The new mass media gave advertisers a huge audience of potential consumers to bombard with a single message: Buy, buy, buy!
Youth culture • The loss of so many young men in World War I seemed to place a special premium on youth. As people came to idolize youth, young people became the models for fashion, dress, music, language, and the explosion of fads. • The flapper replaced the Gibson Girl as the ideal of feminine beauty and style
Teenagers • The long-established belief had been that people remained children until they suddenly became adults; this conviction lost its hold partly because of social changes, partly as a result of the flourishing postwar consumer economy.
The rise of the teenager • In the 1920s, teenagers, the ones who often set the trends, stayed in school longer because many parents no longer depended upon their wages. By 1930, 51 percent of all high-school-age youths were in school, compared with less than 6 percent in 1890. • What has been called the "self-conscious subculture" of the young developed during the 1920s and 1930s as a largely urban white middle-class response to the increasing leisure opportunities afforded by changing social attitudes and prosperity.
Lives of young women • Aided by new laws, the women’s movement, and the automobile, young women exercised a greater measure of freedom in their behavior. • -in 1900s, 11% of all women between ages of 15 and 19 became pregnant and half of whom go one to deliver a life-born infant • -average age for a mother in 1900 was 18.5years old