What Kind Of Houses Do Middle Class Americans Live In

What Kind Of Houses Do Middle Class Americans Live In – Suburban Cataclysm: The Dark, Narrow History of America’s Oil-Dependent Middle Class How the Middle Class Found the Same Things That Made the Middle Class Grow

Houses, cars and children. For a century they defined the family economy and advanced the national economy. They organize our lives and create our debt.

What Kind Of Houses Do Middle Class Americans Live In

Their presence around us seems so natural and so closely tied to the way we measure personal milestones and record family stories that we can forget how new and subtle their combination is, historically speaking. The events of the past ten years served as a reminder.

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Between 2007 and 2008, when the housing market and auto industry collapsed and the Great Recession began, two pillars of the national economy collapsed simultaneously. American households lost $16 trillion in net worth, and the federal government froze major banks and automakers to prevent an even bigger collapse.

The stress comes amid a decades-long slow burn in blue-collar and pink-collar wages and a college affordability crisis. By 2013, working-class wages hadn’t risen significantly against inflation in 40 years, and the average person’s college debt had dropped to just under $30,000. Children, whether from the working class or the professional class, do not even dream of being successful. nor their parents.

When President Obama promised to “build new ladders of opportunity for the middle class” in his 2014 State of the Union address, he admitted that such ladders hardly exist anymore.

We have reached the outer limits of the middle-class American family as it was imagined and socially conceived in the 20th century. These constraints are political, economic and environmental. It helps us understand the current major weaknesses by understanding the unique historical characteristics that gave rise to this family.

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The Industrial Revolution in the early 20th century created the conditions for the rise of the wealthy middle class family in the United States. By providing carbon-based resources—mainly coal, oil, and natural gas—for everything from steel and plastics to electricity and fuel for the internal combustion engine, industrialization gave middle-class life in the West a new, world-historical foundation.

When we calculate energy consumption against economic growth from 1850 to 1970, two things stand out. First, per capita energy consumption has tripled and annual GDP is proportionally smaller, meaning that energy is getting cheaper every year even as consumption increases. Second, despite fluctuations over the past half century, including the rise of China, US per capita energy consumption has more or less doubled that of other industrialized countries.

The intensive use of energy for production, a sign of industrialization, provided only the necessary conditions for the rise of the hydrocarbon middle class family. It was shaped by social and political preferences.

Let’s look at the concept of our youth. With industrialization, children released from work in agriculture and handicrafts could spend many years in school. In the early decades of the 20th century, child labor laws and the universalization of high schools, along with the relatively new field of psychology and entrepreneurs in a growing consumer market, established “adolescence” as a distinct stage of life, expanding youth and openness. . . a new opportunity for millions of people.

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In the 20th century, Americans had fewer children, devoted more private and public resources to each child, and viewed them as both consumers and investments. In 1956, the average weekly disposable income of a middle-class white teenager was $10 (or $85 today), which was close to the weekly disposable income of an entire family a generation ago.

The homes of these children were the result of new forms of energy and constellations of social and political decisions. Electrified homes and their appliances consume more energy than the nation’s and the world’s carbon footprint. In the four decades between 1920 and 1960, American consumers increased their electricity use by 500 percent. Efficiency in converting coal to kilowatt-hours and increased use of oil and natural gas to generate electricity have kept costs reasonable, even as utilities remain highly profitable.

In the first half of the century, many Americans believed, so to speak, that middle-class life was all about being a housewife. The nation’s foremost proponent of home ownership was Herbert Hoover, who led America’s better home movement as Treasury Secretary in the 1920s. The family home is “the foundation of our economic system,” Hoover wrote, “the space where men and women consume the final products of our farms, mines, and factories.”

Before the New Deal, however, the community lacked the political basis for significantly increasing homeownership. Created under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) reshaped the housing market and paved the way for revolutionary 30-year mortgages with 10 percent down payments. After World War II, the Veterans Administration funded one home for every five Americans, the training of 500,000 engineers, 200,000 doctors, dentists and nurses, and 150,000 scientists. Under the auspices of the FHA and VA, homeownership increased from 43 percent in 1940 to 66 percent by 2000.

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The reorganization of the mortgage market under federal prosecutors allowed William Levitt (of Levittown fame) and his many imitators to reinvent the American suburb as a factory-produced commodity. Each house became another node in a vast electrical network full of other products, from carbon-powered refrigerators to lawnmowers. In 2000, 80 percent of Americans lived in urban areas, up from 28 percent in 1910. Suburban governments spent heavily on public education in the years after World War II, and suburban voters supported the expansion of public higher education in states such as California. , New York and Wisconsin.

Of course, post-war American suburban cars were part of the growing urban areas. Because of the type of mobility Americans wanted, the automobile was essential to everyday suburban life. In 1956, the National Interstate Highways and Defense Act, passed by Congress, gave states 90 cents for every cent they invested in interstate highways, affecting the expansion of government as much as the market.

Detroit produced so many new cars to satisfy this insatiable thirst that by the 1950s one in six jobs was directly related to the auto industry. After World War II, this system was fueled by cheap oil increasingly extracted from autocratic countries that were allies of the United States. The oil depletion allowance, a $4 billion annual subsidy to oil companies since 1913, allows some of the world’s richest corporations to avoid taxes. In 2009, 90 percent of Americans drove to work, and 80 percent of them did so alone.

For decades, systemic racial discrimination, supported by government regulations that made mortgages cheaper, led to a large-scale spatial reshaping of largely segregated and unequal middle-class lives. In the second half of the 20th century, as home assets became increasingly valuable, white wealth grew faster than non-white wealth, even as the middle class generally expanded. Among white Americans, houses, cars, and children were not only the organizing elements of family life, but also the basis for choosing cities, neighborhoods, and schools that fostered racial inequality in the physical landscape—as is the case in no space now.

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In the 20th century, a final, often overlooked element in the formation of the coal bourgeois family was important: the political and economic power of the coal workers. In the first half of the 20th century, workers in many industries fought long battles to organize unions and improve wages and working conditions. But none were more powerful than the coal, steel and auto industries—what we might call the carbon-based workforce.

At the height of organized labor’s influence in the 1950s, these three industries employed 3–4 million union workers, or 20 percent of all union workers. Beginning with the famous sit-ins in Flint, Michigan in 1937, strikes by coal, steel, and auto workers unionized America’s primary industries in the late 1940s, raising wages not only in these influential sectors but throughout the industrial economy. . Coal unions created the labor market in the mid-20th century, setting new wages for American workers and expanding the ranks of the middle class beyond white-collar workers, professionals, and small-town businessmen.

Fortune magazine reported in the 1950s that more than 1 million Americans were entering the middle class each year, which the magazine defined as households earning more than $5,000 after taxes (about $40,000 today).

In 2000, the average carbon-rich middle-class American family had fewer than two children, owned two or more cars, and produced 48 tons of carbon per year. In the half-century since World War II, the “stuff” Americans eat has become increasingly degraded due to increasingly sophisticated oil refining. The result is, of course, the “plastic” made famous by The Graduate, but also everything from cosmetics and mayonnaise to soft drinks and agricultural chemicals. No wonder the United States makes up about five percent of the world’s population

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