The Social, Economic, and Cultural Changes in the United States in the 1920’s

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The 1920s marked a period of remarkable social, economic, and cultural change in the United States, altering the lifestyle of many Americans. Economically, the nation became more prosperous. Socially, many citizens adopted a fondness for the same type of music, particularly jazz music. Culturally, American women acquired greater liberty, gained the right to vote when the 19th Amendment became law in 1920, and dramatically changed women's fashion with less restrictive and more daring clothing.
Many of these changes were precipitated by the cessation of World War I in 1918. The end of the war changed the economy from one largely dedicated to war to one that was driven by peace. Although there was an initial depression in 1920 and 1921, the recovery thereafter was very rapid, with impressive economic growth resulting in part from the use of electricity in production and the use of the assembly line in manufacturing.

The invention of more efficient production methods in industrial and manufacturing sectors facilitated the mass production of consumer items. The availability of fossil fuels enhanced mass production. An abundance of energy had a tremendous impact on production, communication, and transportation (Cole 47). The new production methods assisted the United States in becoming one of the world's most prosperous and wealthy countries. Moreover, the culture of all-inclusive was born though with certain contradictions (Foner 98). The 1920s economy brought about prosperity to most Americans. The dramatic changes in communication, transportation, and production transformed American society. The urban population overtook the rural population as employment consistently shifted to the service and industrial sectors. The shrinking rural population facilitated the trend of change. Farming activities actually increased to support mass production, and agriculture became capital-intensive and more scientific.

An increase in income in the 1920s created a consumer society. Industrialization, which facilitated the mass production of goods, led to reduced prices. The modernization of production with electricity and the assembly line delivered huge profits to businesses and improved the standard of living of urban residents. In turn, the workers were rewarded with higher incomes that surpassed the cost of housing and food. With surplus incomes, Americans were able to purchase consumer goods like home appliances, clothes, and radios. The increase in income also resulted in additional demand for automobiles, which caused the number of vehicles on the road to triple. This gave rise to an economy associated with automobiles in which businesses like motels and service stations emerged to meet the needs of car owners and provide additional employment opportunities.

The economic boom helped create a new consumer economy. Americans started restructuring gender roles that opened the way for women to join the workforce and participate in higher education (Cole 133). This occurred, in part, due to ingenious new goods, from washing machines to vacuum cleaners, that helped change the role of women.

Electricity and machines functioning in the carbon-based economy affected everyday life. Technical skills and literacy demanded in employment placed an increasing premium on learning and education. As a result, formal education programs replaced informal means of learning. High school and advanced diplomas and degrees became a requirement of employment as well as a symbol of social status. The institutions prepared students for meaningful jobs.

An abundance of energy, together with mass production, welcomed the age of automobiles, connecting the home with shopping, work, and leisure. The electrification of almost every home enabled households to use a radio set, thereby creating an audience for advertising. The radio served to support the consumer culture. As people became affluent, they spent their money on machines and devices that freed them from work (Cole 99). They used their free time in leisure activities, movies, and sports. Additionally, increased access to birth control enabled women to limit their offspring to a number that they could comfortably raise. This encouraged women to have very few children.

After the end of World War I, the adoption of the Eighteenth Amendment drove Americans to a republican political regime. Similarly, there were movements, including Nationalistic and Fundamentalist movements as well as changes in the social conventions (Cole 77). The citizens elected leaders who favored business expansion, and the American citizens enjoyed boundless prosperity.
The eventual need for the economy to correct itself made our citizens realize that the riches they enjoyed were only temporary. Presidential portraits from the era appear to contradict the prosperity of the roaring twenties, as the election of presidents who favored business but neglected regulations and policies interfered with the balance of the economy (Foner 118). Americans bought things that they could not afford on credit, only to realize that their economic situation did not allow it.

The 1st Amendment right to assemble and engage in free speech was not always enforced. Contrary to expectations, some were arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment for exercising these constitutional rights. The Harlem Renaissance, which celebrated the black culture, was subdued to ensure that an uprising of black culture never became known and that white supremacy would be sustained (Foner 150). Subsequently, many Americans lost their jobs when industrialization and commercialization of production resulted in companies only hiring educated and skilled people.

In summary, the United States is where it is today in large part due to the social, economic, and cultural changes that occurred during the 1920s. Those changes have provided us with a learning platform from which to understand the benefits of advancement while working to negate any unfavorable consequences of change in contradiction of those advancements.

Works Cited

  1. Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty!: An American History. New York: W.W. Norton, 2011. Print.
  2. Cole, Joshua. Western Civilizations: Their History & Their Culture. S.l.: WW Norton, 2015.
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The Social, Economic, and Cultural Changes in the United States in the 1920's. (2023, Mar 09). Retrieved May 30, 2024 , from
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