Recent Social Trends in the United States

Recent Social Trends in the United States (1933), the sister study to Recent Economic Changes in the United States (1929), was conducted by the President's Research Committee on Social Trends under the direction of Herbert Hoover at the beginning of his term as president (1929-1933). (INTRO NOTE Herbert Hoover) The Rockefeller Foundation funded the investigations, the Social Science Research Council contributed various services and other personnel, and a number of federal departments and bureaus provided assistance, including the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Bureau of the Budget (U.S. Department of the Treasury), the Federal Reserve Board, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the Women's Bureau (U.S. Department of Labor). (INTRO NOTE Social Sciences) Edward L. Bernays, the age's leading public relations consultant and a pivotal figure in the orchestration of promotional spectacles targeted at consumers, is among those listed in the Acknowledgments. (DIRECTORY NOTE Edward L. Bernays Papers)

Although this giant in the social science field did not reach publication until 1933, it, like Recent Economic Changes, focuses principally on the 1920s and the interrelationship of social and economic trends during the twenties. (DETAIL NOTE Recent Economic Changes) The Recent Social Trends sections offered here, in machine-searchable format, include all of the prefatory material, which functions something like an Executive Summary, consisting of the Foreword by Herbert Hoover, then president of the United States, with a list of the members of the President's Research Committee and the Executive Staff of the study; A Review of Findings by the President's Research Committee on Social Trends, Acknowledgments, and a Prefatory Note.

In addition, four Recent Social Trends survey chapters are offered here in their entirety, in word-searchable format: Shifting Occupational Patterns by Ralph G. Hurlin and Meredith B. Givens; Labor Groups in the Social Structure by Leo Wolman; The People as Consumers by Robert S. Lynd; and Recreation and Leisure Time Activities by J.F. Steiner. The chapter "The People as Consumers" dovetails with materials selected for the Coolidge-Consumerism collection from the Robert S. Lynd Papers in the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress.

The table of contents for the two volumes of Recent Social Trends has been included in the same record as the "Foreword, Review of Findings, etc.," so that readers can review the total context from which chapters have been selected and determine what else they might find useful or relevant to look at in consulting the entire study in their state or university library.

Many of the individual survey chapters in Recent Social Trends led, in turn, to full-length spin-off studies by some of the same authors. Among them were Rural Social Trends (1933) by Edmund de Schweinitz Brunner and J.H. Kolb; Races and Ethnic Groups in American Life (1933) by T.J. Woofter, Jr.; Communication Agencies and Social Life (1933) by Malcolm M. Willey and Stuart A. Rice, which treats automobiles and highways, touring, newspaper and periodical advertising, radio, and motion pictures; Americans at Play: Recent Trends in Recreation and Leisure Time Activities (1933) by Jesse Frederick Steiner; and Women in the Twentieth Century: A Study of their Political, Social and Economic Activities (1933) by noted social activist and feminist Sophonisba P. Breckinridge. The Breckinridge monograph on women, which is included in its entirety in the Coolidge-Consumerism collection, provides data on women and the labor market, the economy of the home, consumption, leisure, women's sources of income, women in the business world, and women and unemployment.

Due to the timing of its publication at the onset of the Great Depression, Recent Social Trends disappeared from view with little residual attention, even though the set went through several printings around the time of its release. This monument to the evolving social science disciplines makes it possible to appreciate the events of the Coolidge era through the eyes of leading experts of the period, and thus constitutes a primary source in its own right. The two volumes, taken in their totality, together with Recent Economic Changes, very likely constitute the age's richest self-portrait.

Recent Economic Changes and Recent Social Trends, as well as the full-length spin-off studies, can be found at most major research libraries. It was felt that selecting chapters with the greatest bearing on mass consumerism would then point the way to the full set of studies for those interested in the broader overview of the period which these volumes in their entirety richly provide.


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