U.S. Culture — страница 5

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Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, known as the GI Bill of Rights, which provided a wide range of benefits to U.S. military personnel. In many of the new housing developments, builders constructed homes according to a single model, a process first established in Levittown, New York. These identical, partially prefabricated units were rapidly assembled, making suburban life and private land ownership available to millions of returning soldiers in search of housing for their families. American families still choose to live in either suburbs or the sprawling suburban cities that have grown up in newer regions of the country. Vast areas of the West, such as the Los Angeles metropolitan region in California, the area around Phoenix, Arizona, and the Puget Sound area of

Washington state, became rapidly populated with new housing because of the American desire to own a home on a private plot of land. In much of this suburban sprawl, the central city has become largely indistinct. These suburban areas almost invariably reflect Americans’ dependence on automobiles and on government-supported highway systems. As a result of Americans choosing to live in the suburbs, a distinctly American phenomenon developed in the form of the shopping mall. The shopping mall has increasingly replaced the old-fashioned urban downtown, where local shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions were located. Modern malls emphasize consumption as an exclusive activity. The shopping mall, filled with department stores, specialty shops, fast-food franchises, and movie

multiplexes, has come to dominate retailing, making suburban areas across America more and more alike. In malls, Americans purchase food, clothing, and entertainment in an isolated environment surrounded by parking lots. The American preference for living in the suburbs has also affected other living experiences. Because suburbs emphasize family life, suburban areas also place a greater emphasis on school and other family-oriented political issues than more demographically diverse cities. At their most intense levels, desire for privacy and fear of crime have led to the development of gated suburban communities that keep out those who are not wanted. Despite the growth of suburbs, American cities have maintained their status as cultural centers for theaters, museums, concert

halls, art galleries, and more upscale restaurants, shops, and bookstores. In the past several decades, city populations grew as young and trendy professionals with few or no children sought out the cultural possibilities and the diversity not available in the suburbs. Housing can be expensive and difficult to find in older cities such as New York; Boston, Massachusetts; and San Francisco, California. To cope, many city dwellers restored older apartment buildings and houses. This process, called gentrification, combines the American desire for the latest technology with a newer appreciation for the classic and vintage. Many poorer Americans cannot afford homes in the suburbs or apartments in the gentrified areas of cities. They often rely upon federal housing subsidies to pay for

apartments in less-desirable areas of the city or in public housing projects. Poorer people often live crowded together in large apartment complexes in congested inner-city areas. Federal public housing began when President Franklin Roosevelt sought to relieve the worst conditions associated with poverty in the 1930s. It accelerated during the 1950s and 1960s, as the government subsidized the renewal of urban areas by replacing slums with either new or refurbished housing. In the late 20th century, many people criticized public housing because it was often the site for crime, drug deals, gangs, and other social ills. Nevertheless, given the expensive nature of rental housing in cities, public housing is often the only option available to those who cannot afford to buy their own

home. Private efforts, such as Habitat for Humanity, have been organized to help the urban poor move from crowded, high-rise apartments. These organizations help construct low-cost homes in places such as the South Bronx in New York City, and they emphasize the pride and autonomy of home ownership. In recent years, the importance of home ownership has increased as higher real estate prices have made the house a valuable investment. The newest home construction has made standard the comforts of large kitchens, luxurious bathrooms, and small gardens. In line with the rising cost of land, these houses often stand on smaller lots than those constructed in the period following World War II, when one-story ranch houses and large lawns were the predominant style. At the same time, many