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Debtor NationThe History of America in Red Ink$
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Louis Hyman

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691140681

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691140681.001.0001

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Postwar Consumer Credit

Postwar Consumer Credit

Borrowing for Prosperity

(p.132) Chapter Five Postwar Consumer Credit
Debtor Nation

Louis Hyman

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines postwar consumer credit. Many in the postwar United States achieved a material prosperity that, in debt's absence, they could not have attained. Indeed, this postwar prosperity enabled suburbanites with good incomes to live as well as their perhaps wealthier neighborhoods, even if they had little savings. However, this equality of consumption reinforced inequalities of wealth. While the amount loaned grew tremendously in the postwar period, the growth rate for outstanding debt remained relatively flat. Borrowing remained a viable strategy, not only because of rising incomes, but also because all consumer credit remained tax deductible. In such a favorable climate for borrowing, Americans borrowed their way to prosperity.

Keywords:   consumer credit, postwar United States, material prosperity, postwar prosperity, consumption, wealth inequality, debt, borrowing

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