1960 is largely considered to be one of the higher points of the postwar American economic expansion. Important American industries in 1960 included manufacturing and housing development, as post-World War II prosperity made a higher standard of living available to millions of Americans. The 1960s also saw significant employment of the armaments industry, as the government demand for weaponry and vehicles increased considerably during the Vietnam War. Much of the technology of modern industry -- from computers to satellites and communications -- had its roots in the early 1960s.
National Defense Manufacturing
One of the major sources of employment and economic activity in the 1960s was in the national defense industry. In many ways, this industry was mostly left over from the 1940s, when World War II made necessary an unprecedented level of weapons production. In the 1960s, the Vietnam War fueled industrial activity in this area. The American government spent large amounts of money to finance the war and in the process employed thousands to produce weapons, ammunition and military vehicles, such as trucks and airplanes.
The postwar period in general has been characterized by economists as a period of major industrial inventions. In the 1960s, business saw the development of a number of important innovations that would come to define modern life. Color television and satellite communications were both deployed in large scale during the 1960s. The personal computer industry also had its birth in the 1960s, with the development of solid-state computer systems and advances in programming. The catalyst for much of this growth was the development of the integrated circuit in 1958. While much of this technology would not become commonplace until later, its development allowed the creation of computerized financial systems in the 1960s, making computers an important business industry of the time.
Already a vital part of the American economy, the automobile industry also saw major expansion and change during the 1960s. Many more Americans than before became car owners and drivers, and the automotive sector continued to dominate as a source of employment throughout the decade. The period also saw the consolidation of a number of competitive auto producers into the modern "big three" manufacturers: Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. By 1962, General Motors made more than half of all new American cars.
Along with growth in manufacturing, housing development represented a significant industry in 1960. This industry helped fuel the expansion of American cities into the suburbs -- a phenomenon made possible in part by government initiatives, the growing auto industry and postwar prosperity. During the 1950s and 1960s, millions of Americans moved into newly built suburban housing, driving demand both for construction and consumer home products.
- America: A Narrative History; George Tindall and David Shi; 1996
- Geography of Nowhere; James Howard Kunstler; 1994
Matt Petryni has been writing since 2007. He was the environmental issues columnist at the "Oregon Daily Emerald" and has experience in environmental and land-use planning. Petryni holds a Bachelor of Science of planning, public policy and management from the University of Oregon.