Society in the 1950s

Sobiya Azmath

Economic Prosperity

The economy overall grew by 37% during the 1950s. At the end of the decade, the median American family had 30% more purchasing power than at the beginning. Inflation, which had wreaked havoc on the economy immediately after World War II, was minimal, in part because of Eisenhower's persistent efforts to balance the federal budget

Interstate Highway System

On June 29, 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. The bill created a 41,000-mile “National System of Interstate and Defense Highways” that would, according to Eisenhower, eliminate unsafe roads, inefficient routes, traffic jams and all of the other things that got in the way of “speedy, safe transcontinental travel.” At the same time, highway advocates argued, “in case of atomic attack on our key cities, the road net [would] permit quick evacuation of target areas.” For all of these reasons, the 1956 law declared that the construction of an elaborate expressway system was “essential to the national interest.”

“I read the other day where some scientist thinks it’s possible to put a man on the moon by the end of the century. They even have some fellows they call astronauts preparing for it down in Texas.”

Baby Boom

In the United States, approximately 79 million babies were born during the Baby Boom. Much of this cohort of nineteen years (1946-1964) grew up with Woodstock, the Vietnam War, and John F. Kennedy as president.


Television programming has had a huge impact on American and world culture. Many critics have dubbed the 1950s as the Golden Age of Television. TV sets were expensive and so the audience was generally affluent. Television programmers knew this and they knew that serious dramas on Broadway were attracting this audience segment. So, the producers began staging Broadway plays in the television studios. Later, Broadway authors, like Paddy Chayefsky, Reggie Rose and J. P. Miller wrote plays specifically for television. Their plays – Marty, Twelve Angry Men, and Days of Wine and Roses, respectively – all went on to be successful movies.

Jonas Salk

In 1947, Jonas Salk accepted residency at the Medical School of the University of Pittsburgh and worked with the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. It was here that he devoted 8 years of his life working to develop the polio vaccine. In 1952 his vaccine was developed; he and his family including his staff and volunteers were first inoculated to test its effectiveness. On April 12, 1955, Dr. Thomas Francis, Jr., of the University of Michigan, the monitor of the test results, declared the vaccine to be safe and effective. What ensued can only be described as all out public spread of joy and happiness. It was official, the vaccine worked



After World War II, there was an expansion of the population. This caused the need for more housing and other needs for people. Most people resorted to homes outside the cities like suburbs because there it was cheaper. These places were called "bedroom communities". Every community in the suburbs were like its own little town. They all had schools, churches and parks. Suburbs usually created the illusion of a perfect traditional family. They also the new glamorous countryside. Over the next couple of years suburbs became very popular and helped the government to give GI bills to the veterans of World War II and the Korean War. They helped them with the mortgage and college. With the suburbs going increasingly popular, so did the idea of commuting. Improved roads and railway travels became the new way of travel.