Purchasing the American Dream: Buying a Home in 1960 Chicago

photo: suburban home

Created and Developed by Jillian Hinegardner

A home in the suburbs is the hallmark of the American Dream. Homeownership became a reality for many people after World War II. The demand for housing increased rapidly as veterans returned from the war and started families. The federal government subsidized the private building industry's efforts to supply the enormous demand.

In order to build many houses in a short period of time, builders applied the techniques of mass production to the construction of houses. The houses were small, identical to one another, and often poorly constructed, but most importantly they were affordable. They sold quickly and many Americans realized the dream of homeownership for the first time.

By 1960, many of these families had improved their financial status and traded up their first home for a bigger home in a better community. Families sought more individualized housing. Once again, builders responded to the demand.

Only the wealthiest consumers could have a one-of-a-kind home, however. The average family had to choose among the options it could afford. In addition to income, race determined the choices that a family could make. In general, African Americans had to compromise more than whites when choosing a home. In 1960 Chicago, African Americans were basically excluded from buying a home in the suburbs.

Continue to the Preface. »