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Economic Growth and Productivity after World War II

Page history last edited by Robert W. Maloy 3 years, 9 months ago


Topics on this page


A. The long post-war peace between democratic nations


B. The polices of international economic organizations


C. Scientific, medical, and technological advances


Focus Question: What factors contributed to economic and population growth following World War II?


Graph shows the number of births per thousand people in the US. The blue segment shows the Baby Boom defined by the United States government.

Number of births per thousand people in the US. The blue segment shows the Baby Boom defined by the United States government.


A. the long post-war peace between democratic nations

  • World War II brought an end to the Depression:
    • Americans returned from war and produced and demanded consumer goods; rationing had ended.
    • Many new goods were available to the American people, who started buying goods on credit (read about the history of the credit card).
    • Men returned from war and took jobs.

Click here for worksheets on the post WWII economy.

Click here for an overview of the American economy during WWII from the Economic History Association.

Rebuilding Process

  • WWII was the most expensive war in history.
  • America paid millions to rebuild war-torn areas around the world called the Marshall Plan.
  • The Marshall Plan provided assistance with rebuilding war torn areas, for about the Marshall Plan, see below.

The Baby Boom

  • Post-WWII baby boom: 32 million babies born in 1940’s (an 8 million increase from 1930’s) in the US
  • Baby boom showed that economic & social pressures were lessened
  • Previously, older Americans put off having children because of the Great Depression and WWII. After the war ended, they felt they could finally start their families.
  • The economy was flourishing after the war, and many people had confidence the future would continue this trend, encouraging reproduction.
  • The baby boom encouraged more people to move to the newly built suburbs (such as Levittown).
  • The GI Bill allowed for subsidized mortgages for soldiers, which made it cheaper to buy a house in the suburbs than to rent an apartment in the city.
  • The large homes and yards allowed for larger families.


Click here and here for YouTube videos on Levittown.

The baby boom caused women to leave their jobs they held during the war and raise their children. There were even magazine articles and books called, "Cooking To Me Is Poetry,” and “Femininity Begins At Home”. This caused many women to feel unfulfilled in their lives and lead up to the 1960s feminists movement.

After the war, the African Americans returned to the USA with hopes of equality. However, while African American and white soldiers both fought for the same cause, they were treated differently upon return. Many whites felt they had to show their superiority to returning African American veterans. To many African Americans, this sparked their opposition to Jim Crow, which they now started to protest vigorously.

    • For more information, click here.


B. the policies of international economic organizations


United Nations: dealt with disputes for peaceful resolutions

  • In 1945, representatives from 50 countries met to create the United Nations Charter.
  • This charter was based on ideas that the US, China, the UK, and the Soviet Union created in 1944.
  • The charter was signed on June 26, 1945 by the 50 representatives
  • Officially created on October 24, 1945 when China ratified the charter


Click here to read the United Nations Charter.

Marshall Plan: rebuild Western Europe, in hopes of decreasing chance of communist revolution

  • Also known as the European Recovery Program (ERP)
  • Created by George Marshall, Secretary of State
  • Marshall believed political stability would be achieved with strong economic systems


  • Political stability would stop Communism from spreading
  • Included 16 nations, including Germany, who shaped their assistance with guidance from the Economic Cooperation Administration in the US
  • European nations received about $13 billion in aid, which provided staples such as food, fuel, and machinery
  • Later included investments in industrial Europe
  • Funding ended in 1951

Click here to read the Marshall speech, view a documentary, and learn more about the Marshall Plan.


Click here for a photo gallery called "Rebuilding London". Click here for an article and gallery about rebuilding Germany.

NATO, North Atlantic Treaty Organization

  • Created in 1945
  • To help suppress Soviet expansion, stop national militarism in Europe by having a North American presence, and encourage European political alliances
  • Signed April 4, 1945
  • Created Allies


To read the North Atlantic Treaty, click here.

C. scientific, technological, and medical advances


World War II-era submarine


external image taz.jpg

Office of Scientific Research and Development


  • FDR ordered its creation on June 28, 1941
  • Vannevar Bush was appointed director, he had control over all the studies, contracts, and experiments the OSRD completed
  • Recruited scientists from other branches of government, universities, and the private sector
  • Thousands received draft deferments to work at the OSRD
  • The OSRD researched and created both weapons and machinery and medical supplies and vaccines
  • Invented or improved such commodities as radar, rocket launchers, jet engines, amphibious assault boats, long-range navigational aids, devices for detecting submarines
  • Scientists produced large quantities of penicillin to fight diseases & DDT to fight jungle diseases caused by insects
  • By the end of the war, the OSRD spent $450 million on advancing technology
  • The program ended on December 31, 1947
  • Any remaining projects became part of the National Military Establishment



For more information, click here.

Click here for a lesson plan on the consequences of WWII.

Works Cited:

  1. Document Library, http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?category=4
  2. The Marshall Plan, http://usinfo.state.gov/usa/infousa/facts/democrac/57.htm
  3. North Atlantic Treaty Organization, http://www.nato.int/welcome/home.ht
  4. Baby Boomers, http://www.history.com/topics/baby-boomers
  5. U.S. Economy after World War II, http://www.campbell.k12.va.us/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=698
  6. The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow, http://www.pbs.org/wnet/jimcrow/stories_events_ww2.htm
  7. History of the UN, http://www.un.org/en/aboutun/history/
  8. The Marshall Plan, http://www.marshallfoundation.org/TheMarshallPlan.htm
  9. A Short History of the NATO, http://www.nato.int/history/nato-history.html
  10. Technical Reports and Standards, http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/trs/trsosrd.html

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