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Themes of the Cold War Prosperity American consumers, after being held in check by the Great Depression and wartime scarcities, finally had the chance to indulge their suppressed appetites for material goods. The Cold War provided the additional stimulus the economy needed when postwar expansion slowed. The Marshall Plan and the Korean War ensured continued prosperity as the government spent massive amount on guns, planes, and munitions. By the mid-1950s, there were over 40,000 defense contractors working for the federal government During the 1950s, the real weekly earnings of factory workers increased 50%. The year 1960 marked the first time in United States history that a majority of high-school aged people actually graduated from high school. Aided by the GI Bill, college enrollments also increased. Owning a home also became a tangible reality for more and more Americans, as the availability of housing increased and veterans could secure low-interest mortgages. Life in the Suburbs; Baby Boom; Teenage Culture As families prospered and cars and highways made people mobile, many moved to the suburbs. From 1950 – 1960, there was a 19% growth in the US population as couples began to have up to five children, compared to two in the 1930s. This was called the Baby Boom. As families became more affluent, teenagers began to become an important consumer class. The creation of Rock music in the 50s led to a separate teenage culture. Adults were shocked at some music, such as Elvis Presley, and the dancing that went with it. The Televised Society The biggest consumer revolution was the growth of the television industry. The technology for television had existed since the late 1920s, but American companies did not mass produce TVs until after World War II. In 1946, there were 17,000 television sets in the nation, mostly in the East. By 1949, Americans purchased 250,000 sets every month. By 1953, twothirds of American homes had at least one TV. Television had a lasting influence on political campaigns. The presidential election of 1952 was the first time that a candidate for president made use of television advertising. Eisenhower used 15- and 30second spots. By the 1960 presidential campaign, television had become so central to people's lives that many observers blamed Nixon's loss to John F. Kennedy on his poor appearance in the televised presidential debates. JFK looked cool, collected, presidential. Nixon, according to one observer, resembled a "sinister chipmunk." Fear of Communism In 1949, the USSR exploded their first atomic bomb. By 1949, Chinese Communists under Mao Zedong governed China. Americans were afraid of communism and the Soviets were seen as the greatest enemy of the American way of life. Americans began to build bomb shelters in their backyards. The terms “duck and cover” came into being, and to prove allegiance to their country, American schoolchildren began to recite “ . . .one nation under God . . .” in the pledge of allegiance. Traditional Gender Roles Life in the suburbs did nothing to encourage the development of feminism. Women who had been in the workplace during WWII returned home to fulfill the 50s ideal of a woman as wife and mother. “Women could do much more in the living room with a baby in her lap or in the kitchen with a can opener in her hand.” Still, by the end of the 1950s, 40% of American women, including one-third of married women had jobs outside the home. This would lead to the women’s rights movement of the 1960s & 1970s.