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One Nation Divisible

What America Was and What It Is Becoming

Michael B. Katz, Mark J. Stern

Publication Year: 2006

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.

Published by: Russell Sage Foundation


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Title Page

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pp. i-iii


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p. iv


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

In researching and writing this book, we have received extraordinary help from a large number of individuals and organizations. Because the original manuscript was too long and detailed, we faced the difficult task of cutting it—by the end, in half. For..

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Prologue: Introducing the Twentieth Century

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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...

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Chapter 1. What America Was: The Early Twentieth Century

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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...

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Chapter 2. The Paradox of Inequality in the History of Gender, Race, and Immigration

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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...

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Chapter 3. Growing Up and Growing Old in a Century of Family Change

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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:...

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Chapter 4. What America Is Becoming

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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...

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Epilogue: What Does It Mean to Be an American?

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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...


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pp. 225-272


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pp. 273-334

About the Authors

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pp. 335-336


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pp. 337-361

E-ISBN-13: 9781610443319
Print-ISBN-13: 9780871544452
Print-ISBN-10: 0871544458

Page Count: 368
Publication Year: 2006

OCLC Number: 835507700
MUSE Marc Record: Download for One Nation Divisible

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Subject Headings

  • Cultural pluralism -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Equality -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Social change -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Social problems -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • United States -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
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