October 31, 2014 23:41 UTC

The Making of a Nation

American History: Life in the US After World War Two

The United States experienced major changes as many Americans had become dissatisfied with their way of life. <em>Transcript of radio broadcast:</em>

VOICE ONE:

THE MAKING OF A NATION -- a program in Special English by the Voice of America.

(MUSIC)

World War Two ended finally in the summer of nineteen forty-five. Life in the United States began to return to normal. Soldiers began to come home and find peacetime jobs. Industry stopped producing war equipment and began to produce goods that made peacetime life pleasant. The American economy was stronger than ever.

Some major changes began to take place in the American population. Many Americans were not satisfied with their old ways of life.

They wanted something better. And many people were earning enough money to look for a better life.

Millions of them moved out of cities and small towns to buy newly-built homes in the suburbs. Our program today will look at the growth of suburbs and other changes in the American population in the years after World War Two.

VOICE TWO:

The United States has always counted its population every ten years. The government needed to know how many people lived in each state so it would know how many congressmen each state should have.

The first count was made two-hundred years ago. At that time, the country had about four million persons. One hundred years later, the population had increased to about sixty-three million persons. By nineteen fifty, there were more than one hundred fifty million persons in the United States.

In the early years of America, the average mother had eight to ten children. Living conditions were hard. Many children died at an early age. Families needed a lot of help on the farm. So it was good to have many children.

This changed in the years that followed. Families began to have fewer and fewer children. By nineteen hundred, the average woman only had three or four children and by nineteen thirty-six, during the great economic depression, the average American mother gave birth to only two children.

VOICE ONE:

This changed immediately after World War Two. Suddenly, it seemed, every family started having babies. Parents were hopeful about the future. There were lots of jobs. And people everywhere felt the need for a family and security after the long, difficult years of the war. So the birth rate increased suddenly.

The number of children between the ages of five and fourteen increased by more than ten million between nineteen fifty and nineteen sixty.

VOICE TWO:

Many of the new parents moved to homes in the new suburbs. The word suburb comes from the word urban, or having to do with cities. A suburb was sub, or something less than, a city.

It usually was created on an empty piece of land just outside a city. A businessman would buy the land and build houses on it. Young families would buy the houses with money that they borrowed from local banks.

Life was different in the suburbs. There were all sorts of group activities.

VOICE ONE:

There were boy scout groups for the boys. Girl scout groups for the girls. The parent-teachers association at the school. Barbecue parties where families gathered to cook and eat outside. Historian William Manchester described life in the suburbs in this way: "The new suburbs were free, open, and honestly friendly to anyone except black people, whose time had not yet come."

Manchester wrote, "Families moving in found that their new friends were happy to help them get settled. Children in the suburbs exchanged toys and clothes almost as though they were group property. If little Bobby out-grew his clothes, his mother gave them to little Billy across the street. Front doors were not locked. Friends felt free to enter without knocking or asking permission."

VOICE TWO:

Parents did everything they could to make life good for their children. The number of boys playing on Little League baseball teams increased from less than one million to almost six million between nineteen fifty and nineteen sixty. During the same period, the number of Girl Scouts increased by two-million. And twice as many bicycles were sold.

Parents also tried to improve their children's education. In nineteen sixty, parents bought almost three times more educational books for children than ten years earlier.

Parents also bought millions of dollars' worth of pianos, violins, and other musical instruments for their children. Families in the suburbs wanted a new life, a good life, for their children.

VOICE ONE:

It was true that the average number of children per family was increasing. But the total population of the United States did not increase as much during this period as one might have expected.

The reason for this was that fewer immigrants were coming from foreign countries. In fact, the number of immigrants to the United States had been dropping for many years. In nineteen ten, eleven immigrants were coming to America for every thousand Americans already living here. By nineteen fifty, just one-and-a-half immigrants were coming for every thousand Americans.

The kinds of immigrants were changing, too. In the past, most came from northern and western Europe. But now, growing numbers of people came to the United States from Latin America, Asia, and southern and eastern European countries.

VOICE TWO:

Many Americans moved to different parts of the country in the nineteen-fifties.

Most Americans continued to live in the eastern, central, and southern parts of the country. But growing numbers moved to the western states. The population of the western states increased by almost forty percent during the nineteen-fifties.

America's biggest city in nineteen fifty was New York, with almost eight-million persons. Second was Chicago, with more than three-and-a-half million. Then came Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Detroit, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Saint Louis.

VOICE ONE:

Another population change was in life expectancy. In the early nineteen-hundreds, the average newborn American could only expect to live about forty-seven years. But by the nineteen fifties, most American babies could expect to live well past their sixtieth birthday.

This increase in life expectancy was due to improvements in living conditions and medical care. And it would continue to increase steadily in the years that followed.

VOICE TWO:

The United States was a changing country, a nation on the move. And political leaders battled each other for the right to lead it. We will look in our next program at political events during this period and look at the presidency of Harry Truman.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

You have been listening to THE MAKING OF A NATION, a program in Special English by the Voice of America. Your narrators have been Harry Monroe and Rich Kleinfledt. Our program was written by David Jarmul. The Voice of America invites you to listen again next week to THE MAKING OF A NATION.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Learn with The News

  • FILE - Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, right, walks past Chinese President Xi Jinping as they arrive to the Monument to the People's Heroes during a ceremony marking Martyr’s Day at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, Sept. 30, 2014.

    Audio China’s Constitution Receives New Attention

    The constitution took effect in the early 1980s, when the Communist Party was opening up the country economically. Now China is at a new crossroads. Observers say it is reaching for a new economic growth model. Chinese officials will promise to defend its rules when they take office. | In The News More

  • Video More US Hispanic Women Convert to Islam

    Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. The Pew Research Center says about six percent of American Muslims are Latino. And women make up a little more than half of the new converts -- the people who have changed their religion to Islam. More

  • This image released by USCIS shows a sample of the front of the redesigned green card carried by foreign-born residents living permanently in the U.S. The Homeland Security Department is issuing the redesigned "green card" that is stacked with safety feat

    Audio US 'Green Card Lottery' Ending November 3

    State Department’s Diversity Visa program closes November 3rd. Millions of people have entered the program, hoping to win a visa. But only 50,000 are chosen. 5,000 more are available under the Nicaraguan and Central America Relief Act. The green card lottery closes on Monday. | As It Is More

  • A convoy of peshmerga vehicles is escorted by Turkish Kurds on their way to the Turkish-Syrian border, in Kiziltepe near the southeastern city of Mardin October 29, 2014

    Audio Iraqi Kurdish Fighters Enter Kobani

    Also in the news, Burkina Faso ends efforts to extend its presidential term limit after protests in the capital. Ukraine says the EU will be guarantor in any gas deal with Russia. Myanmar holds a major meeting Friday. And claims of cheating delay SAT results for South Korean and Chinese students. More

  • Video Singapore Film Ban Raises Free Speech Issue

    The documentary film, “To Singapore, with Love” tells about political dissidents from Singapore. The film has been shown at public events in Britain, India and Malaysia, among other countries. But one place the movie cannot be seen is Singapore. That is because the government there has banned it. More

Featured Stories

  • Obama Halloween

    Audio Halloween Is Big with Kids and Business

    The National Retail Federation says sales of Halloween goods will total about $7.4 billion this year. It says the average American will spend about $77. The group expects 162 million people to celebrate. The NRF predicts 54 million of them will hold Halloween parties. | American Mosaic More

  • A print shows the Second Battle of Bull Run, also called Second Manassas.

    Audio South Defeats North Again at Manassas

    Lincoln named George Pope to lead the Army of Virginia. He wanted to join Pope’s forces with the Army of the Potomac and break through Confederate defenses around Richmond. But General Robert E. Lee decided to hit Pope first. More

  • Star House

    Video Home of Last Comanche Chief Close to Ruins

    One of the most interesting people in U.S. history is Quanah Parker, the last chief of the country’s Comanche Indian tribe. Quanah Parker was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Quanah Parker was a fierce fighter. More

  • FILE - A veterinarian at the nonprofit Bali Animal Welfare Association gives a rabies shot to a puppy in Kebon Kaja village, Bangli Regency in Bali, Indonesia.

    Audio Mass Vaccination of Dogs Can Eliminate Rabies

    About 70,000 people worldwide die every year of rabies. Rabies is a viral infection that people get mainly through dog bites. Scientists say vaccinating dogs can effectively get rid of rabies outbreaks in dog populations. And this will have a domino effect, fewer humans with rabies. More

  • Methane oxidizing

    Photogallery Small Organisms in Deep Sea Rocks Eat Methane

    The gas methane has been linked to rising temperatures on Earth. But methane does not stay in the atmosphere as long as another “greenhouse gas” -- carbon dioxide. Scientists say both gases trap heat from the sun. They prevent heat from escaping into outer space. More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner BlogConfessions of an English Learner Blog

Tell us About Our Programs