March 31, 2004

America in 1900

A very interesting list illuminating American Life in 1900 courtesy of on economist Timothy Taylor:

  • Total U.S. population in 1900 was 76 million people, less than a third the population we have now.

  • The U.S. was the wealthiest economy in the world. Per capita income was on a level with Britain and Australia, was twice that of France and Germany, and was quadruple the standard of living in Japan and Mexico.

  • Still, most Americans in 1900 were living in what we today would consider poverty. In present-day dollars, per capita American income in 1900 averaged around $5000, less than a fifth the current level. In other words, the typical American in 1900 had about the same income that a typical Mexican has today.

  • Only three percent of American homes were lit by electricity.

  • Only about a third of American homes had running water; only 15% had flush toilets; and half of farm households didnít even have an outhouse.

  • Most people lived within a mile of where they worked, and depended on their feet to get them around. Only one urban household in five owned a horse.

  • Half of all people lived in spaces where they averaged more than one person per room. Taking in lodgers was common.

  • Half the population drank alcohol; half didnít. The half that did averaged two hard drinks and two beers a day; wine consumption was minimal. In Europe, by contrast, people drank twice as much beer, and averaged more than four glasses of wine a day.

  • Life expectancy at birth was 47 years, and infant mortality rates were high. Of every 1000 babies born, 140 died in their first year. These days, fewer than 10 do.

  • Flu, pneumonia, typhoid, gastritis, and whooping cough were common causes of death.

  • 10% of the American population was completely illiterate, and the average adult had an 8th grade education. Only 7% of students would ever complete high school.

  • A manís typical on-the-job work week consisted of 60 hours of work spread over six days. Pensions were rare; men generally worked until they were too feeble to go on doing so. 2/3rds of men over 65 had fulltime jobs.

  • Women were 18% of the paid work force. They mainly worked in fields like textiles, apparel, shoes, canning -Ė fields where you were paid according to how much you produced.

  • At home, women spent around 40 hours a week on meal preparation and meal cleanup, seven hours on laundry, and another seven hours on housecleaning. The average housewife baked a half a ton of bread -- about 1400 loaves -- a year. Posted by Vanderleun at March 31, 2004 2:49 PM | TrackBack
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