The American Economy of the 60s and 70s

This picture shows the long lines at gas stations during the energy crisis.
... Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The rise and fall of the economy in the United States has always been directly impacted by what else was happening at that precise moment in history. For instance, the 1960s economy was characterized by the government increasing their spending approximately 3 percent per year to fund social welfare programs and the Vietnam War. This resulted in low unemployment rates and a stable economy. However, the 1970s economy was defined by the end of the Vietnam War which led to high inflation rates and as well as the 1970s energy crisis which created a major economic recession.

1 The Great Society of the 1960s

In the 1960s, the government began to expand its role, which was supported by the majority of Americans. However, people had a hard time agreeing on which federally funded programs should be expanded. When President Lyndon Johnson came to office following President John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963, he implemented the Great Society of the 1960s.

The Great Society of the 1960s focused on domestic programs, such as social welfare programs and it also led to the "War on Poverty." Under Johnson's leadership, Medicare and Medicaid were established, and money was appropriated to improve public education. The Office of Economic Opportunity was also created under the Johnson administration to organize community programs and provide job training to the poor. These programs provided economic relief and reduced the unemployment rate, but they also resulted in federal expenditures reaching $150 billion by the mid-1960s.

2 The Stock Market Impacts 1960s Economy

A combination of economic expansion, low inflation rates and an interest in private investment resulted in a growing stock market which impacted the 1960s economy. In fact, during the early 1960s, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose an average of 18.4 percent for three consecutive years. The stock market peaked in February 1966 before dropping 25 percent by the end of the year. However, the market recovered and stabilized in 1968, partially due to inflation rates remaining at 1 to 2 percent. However, in 1970, as a result of the energy crisis and rising inflation, the market plummeted and failed to recover by the end of the decade.

3 The 1970s Energy Crisis

The 1970s energy crisis was caused by the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) imposing an embargo on shipping petroleum to countries that supported Israel during the Yom Kippur War. OAPEC also quadrupled the price of oil and refused to negotiate with oil companies. Many Americans initially underestimated the crisis. However, when schools were forced to shut down, gas was rationed and Americans struggled to afford heating bills, the extent of the crisis was realized, which was one of the major factors that defined the 1970s economy.

4 The 1970s Economy During Nixon

When President Richard Nixon took office, he began withdrawing troops from Vietnam. By 1972, fewer than 50,000 U.S. troops were stationed in Vietnam, and by the end of 1975, all troops had been withdrawn. A reduction in defense spending after the war caused an economic slowdown that combined with already high unemployment and inflation rates to create a recession. In response, Nixon became the first president to increase deficit spending to stabilize the economy. In addition, he instituted a 90-day wage-price control that limited increases to prices and wages to stabilize inflation. Although the control did not fix the economy overnight, it did prevent the economy from getting worse. Nixon also set price controls on oil and natural gas after the energy crisis to prevent a monopoly in the energy sector.

Michelle Lee has been writing on the topics of culture and society since 2010. She has published articles in scholarly journals, such as "Social Problems" and the "Journal of Sociology," and also written articles for web-based companies. Lee holds a Bachelor of Arts in ethnic, gender and labor studies from the University of Washington.