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One Nation Divisible

One Nation Divisible: What America Was and What It Is Becoming

Michael B. Katz
Mark J. Stern
Copyright Date: March 2006
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    One Nation Divisible
    Book Description:

    American society today is hardly recognizable from what it was a century ago. Integrated schools, an information economy, and independently successful women are just a few of the remarkable changes that have occurred over just a few generations. Still, the country today is influenced by many of the same factors that revolutionized life in the late nineteenth century—immigration, globalization, technology, and shifting social norms—and is plagued by many of the same problems—economic, social, and racial inequality. One Nation Divisible, a sweeping history of twentieth-century American life by Michael B. Katz and Mark J. Stern, weaves together information from the latest census with a century’s worth of data to show how trends in American life have changed while inequality and diversity have endured. One Nation Divisible examines all aspects of work, family, and social life to paint a broad picture of the American experience over the long arc of the twentieth century. Katz and Stern track the transformations of the U.S. workforce, from the farm to the factory to the office tower. Technological advances at the beginning and end of the twentieth century altered the demand for work, causing large population movements between regions. These labor market shifts fed both the explosive growth of cities at the dawn of the industrial age and the sprawling suburbanization of today. One Nation Divisible also discusses how the norms of growing up and growing old have shifted. Whereas the typical life course once involved early marriage and living with large, extended families, Americans today commonly take years before marrying or settling on a career path, and often live in non-traditional households. Katz and Stern examine the growing influence of government on trends in American life, showing how new laws have contributed to more diverse neighborhoods and schools, and increased opportunities for minorities, women, and the elderly. One Nation Divisible also explores the abiding economic paradox in American life: while many individuals are able to climb the financial ladder, inequality of income and wealth remains pervasive throughout society. The last hundred years have been marked by incredible transformations in American society. Great advances in civil rights have been tempered significantly by rising economic inequality. One Nation Divisible provides a compelling new analysis of the issues that continue to divide this country and the powerful role of government in both mitigating and exacerbating them.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-331-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Prologue Introducing the Twentieth Century
    (pp. 1-6)

    At the dawn of the twentieth century, two articles flanked the front page of the New York Times. One focused on South Africa and the Boer War, the other on China, the Open Door policy, the prospects for trade, and the competition among nations. The Times anticipated the new century with barely tempered optimism. The year 1899 was “a veritable annus mirabilis, in business and production.” Nothing remained untouched. “It would be easy to speak of the twelve months just past as the banner year were we not already confident that the distinction of highest records must presently pass to...

  5. Chapter 1 What America Was: The Early Twentieth Century
    (pp. 7-62)

    At the start of the twentieth century most Americans lived on farms or in small communities where, on an ordinary day, they would not encounter unfamiliar faces. Few things underscore the differences between America then and now as dramatically as the size of the places in which most people lived and the thin dispersal of the population across the continent.

    Most historical accounts of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century—at least outside the South—focus on a different view. The major themes are industrialization, urbanization, immigration, and imperialism. Drawn by plentiful jobs and relatively high wages, immigrants from...

  6. Chapter 2 The Paradox of Inequality in the History of Gender, Race, and Immigration
    (pp. 63-125)

    In the last half of the twentieth century the Civil Rights movement and the Women’s movement swept across the United States. Although neither reached all its goals, each gained many of its objectives and, in the process, transformed the nation. Yet, in the decades of these movements’ greatest successes, Americans became massively more unequal.

    How did this happen? This chapter answers the question by tracing multiple inequalities across the century and finding a common pattern among them. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, inequality—deep, durable, pervasive—emerged from the clash of the old and new Americas. Whether...

  7. Chapter 3 Growing Up and Growing Old in a Century of Family Change
    (pp. 126-170)

    In the early twentieth century, many Americans did not know exactly how old they were, and they did not care. The Census Bureau’s report on age statistics from the 1910 census cautioned readers:

    It is impossible to claim entire accuracy for census statistics of age. Some people do not know their true ages; some people seem deliberately to report them incorrectly; and the reports for a good many persons are not made by the persons themselves, but by others who have not exact knowledge as to the age. There is a conspicuous tendency to report ages in round numbers; the...

  8. Chapter 4 What America Is Becoming
    (pp. 171-216)

    By 2000, everything had changed. Where more than 50 percent of the population in 1900 had lived in places with at most one thousand residents, these small communities were home to only 2 percent in 2000. Roughly 50 percent now lived in towns and cities of at least twenty-five thousand and 27 percent in cities of one hundred thousand or more. The population, and with it the average population density, had just about tripled. Rather than on a farm, the modal American now lived in a suburb. Rather than in agriculture, she now worked in one of the service industries....

  9. Epilogue What Does It Mean to Be an American?
    (pp. 217-224)

    If science has undermined ideas of race, if intermarriage has blurred the meaning of ethnicity, if immigration has changed the geographic origins of the population, if America no longer can be described as black and white, if the vocabulary of group identity has been rendered obsolete, what, then, has happened to the idea of nationality? What does it mean to be an American? The term is actually very old. American was used in the sixteenth century to refer to the inhabitants of the North American continent.¹ Over time, its meaning became less, not more, precise, and since the early days...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 225-272)
  11. References
    (pp. 273-334)
  12. About the Authors
    (pp. 335-336)
  13. Index
    (pp. 337-356)