Americans moved, too. Growing demand for single-family homes and the widespread ownership of cars led many
Americans to migrate from central cities to suburbs. Coupled with technological innovations such as the
invention of air conditioning, the migration spurred the development of "Sun Belt" cities such as Houston,
Atlanta, Miami, and Phoenix in the southern and southwestern states. As new, federally sponsored highways
created better access to the suburbs, business patterns began to change as well. Shopping centers multiplied,
rising from eight at the end of World War II to 3,840 in 1960. Many industries soon followed, leaving cities for
less crowded sites.
Years of Change: The 1960s and
1950s in America are often described as a time of complacency. By contrast, the 1960s and 1970s were a time of
great change. New nations emerged around the world, insurgent movements sought to overthrow existing
governments, established countries grew to become economic powerhouses that rivaled the United States, and
economic relationships came to predominate in a world that increasingly recognized military might could not be
the only means of growth and expansion.
John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) ushered in a more activist approach to governing. During his 1960 presidential
campaign, Kennedy said he would ask Americans to meet the challenges of the "New Frontier." As president, he
sought to accelerate economic growth by increasing government spending and cutting taxes, and he pressed for
medical help for the elderly, aid for inner cities, and increased funds for education. Many of these proposals
were not enacted, although Kennedy's vision of sending Americans abroad to help developing nations did
materialize with the creation of the Peace Corps. Kennedy also stepped up American space exploration. After his
death, the American space program surpassed Soviet achievements and culminated in the landing of American
astronauts on the moon in July 1969.
assassination in 1963 spurred Congress to enact much of his legislative agenda. His successor, Lyndon Baines
Johnson (1963-1969), sought to build a "Great Society" by spreading benefits of America's successful economy to
more citizens. Federal spending increased dramatically, as the government launched such new programs as Medicare
(health care for the elderly), Food Stamps (food assistance for the poor), and numerous education initiatives
(assistance to students as well as grants to schools and colleges).
spending also increased as American's presence in Vietnam grew. What had started as a small military action
under Kennedy mushroomed into a major military initiative during Johnson's presidency. Ironically, spending on
both wars -- the war on poverty and the fighting war in Vietnam -- contributed to prosperity in the short term.
But by the end of the 1960s, the government's failure to raise taxes to pay for these efforts led to
accelerating inflation, which eroded this prosperity. The 1973-1974 oil embargo by members of the Organization
of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) pushed energy prices rapidly higher and created shortages. Even after
the embargo ended, energy prices stayed high, adding to inflation and eventually causing rising rates of
unemployment. Federal budget deficits grew, foreign competition intensified, and the stock market