The 1950s were not really great
People on both sides of the political aisle are “waxing nostalgic for the 1950s,” said Noah Smith. “Many on the right wish for a return to the country’s conservative mores and nationalist attitudes, while some on the left pine for the era’s high tax rates, strong unions, and lower inequality.” But most objective measures show that things are much better now. At the end of the 1950s, “more than half of black Americans lived below the poverty line.” Many people now remember the decade as a time when a single breadwinner could provide for a family. But “a third of women worked in the ’50s, showing that many families needed a second income even if it defied the gender roles of the day”—and the women who did work had little chance for fulfilling careers. The “good old factory jobs” were often hard and dangerous. And Americans spent more time working: 2,264 hours a year in 1952, compared with 1,707 today. And what did workers call home? The average floor area of a single-family house in 1950 was 983 square feet, the size of a one-bedroom apartment today. Yes, the 1950s were a decade of progress and hope, but “the point of progress and hope is that things get better later.” And they did.