As the Cold War unfolded in the decade and a half after World War II, the United States experienced phenomenal economic growth.
The war brought the return of prosperity, and in the postwar period the United States consolidated its position as the world's richest country.
Gross national product, a measure of all goods and services produced in the United States, jumped from about $200 thousand-million in 1940 to $300 thousand-million in 1950 to more than $500 thousand-million in 1960.
The growth had different sources. The automobile industry was partially responsible, as the number of automobiles produced annually quadrupled between 1946 and 1955.
A housing boom, stimulated in part by easily affordable mortgages for returning servicemen, fueled the expansion. The rise in defense spending as the Cold War escalated also played a part.
As suburbs grew, businesses moved into the new areas. Large shopping centers containing a great variety of stores changed consumer patterns. The number of these centers rose from eight at the end of World War II to 3,840 in 1960.