The Growth of Suburbia


  • GI Bill benefits that guarantied home loans helped many Americans buy houses and move into the suburbs.
  • Techniques of mass production made it possible to build homes faster and cheaper than ever before.
  • Due to low prices and veterans' benefits, more Americans could afford to own homes.
    • Suburbia in the postwar era

      The American Dream is one of the most enduring images in American culture: 2.5 kids, a dog, and a house with a white picket fence. The cookie-cutter homes that sprang up in the suburbs after World War II represented luxury for many Americans.

      During the late 1940s and 1950s, Americans as well as immigrants had moved to American cities in search of factory work. In the postwar era, however, thanks to low housing costs and GI Bill benefits, Americans could afford to own homes in the suburbs.

      Residential patterns have a major influence on society and politics. People pay taxes based on where they live, and political representatives are apportioned based on the populations of districts. So the postwar move to the suburbs caused a major reorganization of power and money that affected American industry, race relations, and gender roles.

      Houses on the assembly line

      When the war was over, millions of soldiers returned to the United States, got married, and started the baby boom. There was very little housing available for them. Now that the war was over, American industry turned its attention to building houses. One of the nation's leading construction firms, Levitt and Sons, launched a plan to mass-produce homes just outside of New York City. The company bought 4000 acres of farmland for the largest private housing project in American history. They named it Levittown.

      Every house in the division had exactly the same floor plan. Residents sometimes walked into the wrong house at night by accident. Thanks to mass production, the earliest Levittown houses cost only $7000, or $29 per month for a mortgage.

      Government loans were managed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and the Veterans Administration (VA). Since the GI Bill insured veterans' mortgages, Levittown could offer credit to the buyers. In some cases, veterans and their families could move into a new house without paying out a cent.

      Source: The Growth of Suburbia
      © 2017 Khan Academy

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