The Consumer Era, 1940s–1970s
During the Consumer Era, production boomed and consumerism shaped the American marketplace, which spread from cities to suburbs. Innovations in technology, expansion of white-collar jobs, more credit, and new groups of consumers fueled prosperity. Business and political leaders claimed consumerism was more than shopping: it defined the benefits of capitalism. This era marked a high point of American productivity and a high standard of living. But it ended with many Americans questioning the promises of consumer capitalism. As the economic engine slowed in the 1970s, productivity waned, wages flattened, and Americans faced an energy crisis that reshaped consumer expectations.
After World War II, Americans enjoyed expanded opportunities and material prosperity. But income inequality persisted, and people questioned whether the government should intervene to balance the scales.