Baby Boom after World War II

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After World War 2 ended, the American population dramatically increased. Millions of babies were born as soldiers returned home to their families. Known as the baby boom, this sudden growth in the birth rate started in 1946 and continued on until 1964. In the boom’s peak year of 1957, 4.3 million babies were born; only 2.5 million babies were born in 1939 before the baby boom (United States). The large baby boomer generation not only had significant effects on the American population, but also the economy. The baby boomer generation caused the suburban housing industry and automobile industry to flourish from 1950 to 1965. 

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Due to the increasing family size, the suburban housing industry quickly grew in the 1950s and 1960s. As families got larger, suitable housing became more difficult to find. Homes in the city were either too expensive or too small for the baby boom families, causing them to live in alternative housing like trolley cars and Quonset huts instead (The Growth of Suburbia). For example, in 1947, 6 million people were living with relatives due to the lack of urban housing. As a result of this pressing problem, the suburban housing industry flourished, creating millions of affordable homes outside of the city for growing families. Suburban single-family homes were cheaper and larger than housing in the city, making them perfect for families with babies. Construction grew rapidly from only 114,000 homes in 1944 to 1,692,000 houses in 1950 (Kaledin 61). In the suburban housing community of Levittown, more than 30 houses were built a day and 17,447 homes had been built in 4 years. Housing in Levittown was in high demand and the Levitts earned an average profit of 1,000 dollars on each house they built (Kaledin 62). Overall, the housing industry greatly profited as the median price for a single-family house in 1950 was 10,050 dollars (Young and Young 286). Adding on, in 1959, Vice President Richard Nixon boasted about the success of democratic capitalism to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, stating that 30 million American families owned their own homes. In fact, in the 1950s, the ‘typical’ American lived in suburbia (Kaledin 121-122). For example, in 1960, 60 percent of Americans owned a house as compared to 40 percent in 1943 (Young and Young 66). From 1950 to 1965, the suburban housing industry flourished as a result of families’ growing needs.

The automobile industry also prospered because of the baby boomer generation. Due to the suburbanization caused by the baby boom, automobiles became a necessity for families. As Young and Young state, [t]he move of the middle class to the suburbs was coupled with a desire for new cars (247). This is because of the widespread placement of facilities in the suburbs. Establishments like schools and stores were miles apart from each other, forcing families to invest in automobiles. By 1958, 70 percent of all American families possessed a car, which was a rise of 20 percent from 1950 (Young and Young 247). Specifically, in 1950, 49 million cars were registered, but by 1959, the number grew to 74 million (Young and Young 251). Cars were necessary to travel to work in the city, run errands, drop kids to school, and participate in various other activities. Access to an automobile was deemed a necessity due to the scarcity of local facilities (Young and Young 248). Due to the necessity of cars, the number of motor vehicles on the road in 1950 doubled from the amount in 1945 (Young and Young 247). The cost of the car increased by 33 percent due to high demand; the average price rose from 1,270 dollars to 1,822 dollars (Young and Young 251). Families also began to invest in two cars — one for the mother and one for the father — to travel to work and run errands at the same time. By the end of the 1950s, over 10 percent of all families owned 2 cars (Young and Young 248). As the baby boom children grew older, they too possessed their own motor vehicles. Cars provided autonomy to teenagers and teens used their autonomy to watch movies in drive-in restaurants, customize their cars, and take part in neighborhood races (Young and Young 28-30). The automobile industry greatly profited from the baby boomer generation and the necessity of cars. For instance, in 1955, General Motors became the first company in the United States to earn one billion dollars in one year (Kaledin 124). Furthermore, by 1955, Americans had spent a total of 65 billion dollars on motor vehicles (Kaledin 122). As a result of the baby boom, the automobile industry thrived in the 1950s and 1960s

Due to the baby boomer generation, both the suburban housing and automobile industry prospered from 1950 to 1965. Baby boom families moved to the suburbs to accommodate their growing needs as suburban housing was inexpensive compared to homes in the city. Consequently, the automobile industry flourished because suburban facilities were established far away from each other, making cars necessary for travel. To add on, as the baby boomers grew older, they too increased the demand for automobiles. The baby boomer generation has had multiple long-lasting effects on the American society and economy, not only after the end of World War 2, but also today.

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Baby Boom After World War II. (2019, Aug 12). Retrieved January 29, 2023 , from

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