The Baby Boom of the 1950s

By: Nina Stoneham

After the Great Depression in the 30's and early 40's, America was ready to rebuild and reconstruct the life around them. Birthrates had dropped dramatically during the Great Depression because people saw no reason to have anymore children. They had to keep up with those that they already did have and continue feeding them and keeping their needs met. It was the exact opposite in the 50s when the birthrates dramatically increased. The soldiers had just come home from war in Europe and were eager to start a new life. They were bursting with pride and victory from their success in World War I and this caused the marriage rate in 1946 to rise to 2.3 million. There was also a desire to have large families. The birthrate, accordingly, went up too. Within one year, 1947, a record 3.8 million babies was born. A baby was born every 7 seconds. The late 40s and all of the 50s marked the Baby Boom era.

There were some other positive effects of the Baby Boom as well. In order to keep up with all of the babies in the Baby Boom, more products had to be produced. Food, clothing, diaper and toy sales went up dramatically.  So apparently, the Baby Boom not only raised the population, but the economy as well. As happy as all of this seems, some people also worried about the negative effects of the Boom. Since all of those children had been born, all of them had to go to school.  More children meant teacher and classroom shortages, not to mention the crowding of the schools as well. Ten million students entered into elementary schools in the 1950s alone.  There was also a worry about food and whether or not the farmers and other growers would be able to keep up with all the hungry mouths to feed in the country. The younger generation was increasing while the older generation was decreasing. With that mothers and wives were too.

More women were becoming mothers and along with that, came the expectations of motherhood roles, such as cooking and cleaning house. Instead, a lot of women opted for working at a job, which meant not being able to stay at home all the time. Men had the same problem, too. Some people like the author, Philip Wylie said, "American men are lousy fathers". He said that most American families are without a male role model at home. "There are 168 hours in a week. The average man spends about 40 of them at work. Allow another 15 hours for commuting time, lunch, overtime, etc. Then, set aside 56 hours each night, for sleep." (Philip Wylie) He felt that children were being deprived of a dad. Also, many women weren't at home all the time, either. They were considered to be neglecting their husbands and most importantly, their children. They were criticized of endangering their family, and the Life magazine said about wives, "They should use their minds in every conceivable way…so long as their primary focus of interest and activity is the home." (Life Magazine)

It seems as though the generations have kept on growing and growing. The baby boomers were born and the nation was shocked at how much they consumed. Then they began to have children of their own and the population kept on growing. The Baby Boom of the 50s also alerted people about how big the country was getting. One moment, the country is in its death throes with the Great Depression and people are ending their lives and realizing the grim future ahead. The next moment, The Great Depression is gone and WWII is finally over, more lives are being produced and the future looks bright.

Information From:

Tompkins, Vincent. “The Baby Boom.” American Decades. Vol. 6. 2001. 264-265. 17 July 2008 <http://find.galegroup.com>.