In the 15 years following the WWII, the US underwent a period of economic growth. By the end of this period, most of the nation's population lived free of material want. With Japan and Europe still recovering from the war, America, with only six percent of the world's population, produced half of the world's manufactured goods. Two major factors were responsible for the nation's postwar prosperity. First, after years of depression and then war time scarcities, there was a large demand for consumer goods.
Initially, US factories could not turn out cars and appliances fast enough to satisfy the appetites of the hordes of savings-rich buyers. By 1950, however, the factory production lines finally caught up with the demand. In that year Americans bought more than 6 million automobiles and the gross national product was 50% higher than in 1940.
The gross national product represents the value of all goods and services produced in a nation during a specific period. Second, the Cold War provided the additional stimulus the economy needed when postwar expansion slowed. The Marshal Plan and other foreign-aid programs led to a large increase in American exports. Then the Korean War and the continuing rivalry with the Soviet Union expanded defense spending in the early 1950's. As a result of these economic factors, the nation achieved a level of affluence that erased any fears of another depression. The growth of the suburbs continued as the nation underwent a baby boom, a period that has substantially higher than normal number of births.
Young married couples began to have three, four, or five children compared to only one or two children in the 1930's. This trend led to the largest rise in population in any decade since 1910. The national economy boomed as manufacturers turned out an ever-increasing number of refrigerators, ranges, and dishwashers to equip the kitchens of suburbs around the country.
A multitude of …