Life looked a lot different 50 years ago. In 1968, everyone had landlines and no one had an email address. In 2018, cars can drive themselves, same-sex couples can get married, and single women can get a credit card. A half-century of technological advancements has put a computer in practically every home, and a cell phone in almost everyone’s hands.
An undeniable catalyst for the most change was the invention of the modern internet, which was introduced as the World Wide Web in 1991. Now, shopping for anything can be done online. Entertainment and news are consumed on-demand in real time. With search engines at their fingertips, students no longer spend long hours at the library or combing through their home set of Encyclopedia Britannica for their book reports.
Using data from the Pew Research Center, the U.S. Census Bureau, and news reports, Stacker compiled a list of 50 ways family and domestic life has changed over the past 50 years. Click through to see how modern life is totally different.
In the 1960s, only about one-third of pregnant women worked up until the month before giving birth. In the late 2000s, that number rose to 82%. Expectant mothers were able to work more easily after the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed in 1978. This amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sex discrimination based on pregnancy. Because working mothers can't usually return home during the day, they have the right to pump breast milk at work. Employers covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act (nearly all workplaces) are required to provide a clean, quiet space other than a bathroom. Although it is illegal to fire—or choose to not hire—a woman because she is pregnant, it still happens.
In 1965, men dedicated about two hours a week to domestic chores. A 2012 study showed that had doubled to four hours by 2010, a number that leveled off in the ‘90s. Men still don't do as much housework as women, and lean toward shopping and cooking. Women report doing more laundry and house cleaning. Research shows that when men share in the housework, couples are more satisfied with their relationship.
While 95% of the population has a cell phone, about 77% of Americans have a smartphone. For many, these internet-enabled devices are their chief means of getting online at home. From 2007 to 2013, the smartphone saw double-digit sales growth. Since so many people now have smartphones—and are holding onto them for longer—sales decreased for the first time in 2017.
Newspaper circulation increased in the ‘60s, and peaked in the ‘90s with more than 62 million Americans receiving a paper on Sunday morning. After the rise of the internet and major declines in advertising, the Sunday circulation dropped to fewer than 34 million subscribers. Newsrooms have lost nearly half of their reporters, editors, and photographers since 2004.
The Roomba hit the market in 2002, and consumers had purchased more than a million of these small, efficient robotic vacuums by 2004. The Roomba was one of the first robots that could do actual housework. Some models collect data while they clean, prompting concern that the vacuums could transmit information about home layout to Amazon, Apple, or Google.
In 2017, 43% of the American workforce reported working remotely for at least some of the week. Those who spent 60-80% of their time away from the office reported the highest levels of engagement.
In 1971, IBM installed floppy disk drives into their computers, the first of which stored 80 kilobytes of data. By 1986, the disk size decreased and the storage capacity increased to 1.44 megabytes. In 2018, Samsung created a 2.5-inch device that can hold 30 terabytes of storage—enough memory for 5,700 HD movies.
While Americans still depend on daily mail carriers, the milkman has all but disappeared. In 1963, almost 30% of the population had milk delivered. By 2005—when milk was cheap, readily available, and easy to transport—that figure plunged to 0.4%.
Before personal GPS technology, people found their way using map books. While these paper guides haven't completely disappeared, their popularity has waned. It might be worth breaking out a physical map every now and then, however. When humans depend on digital directions, the brain's navigation function goes dormant.
In the 1960s, someone had to pull out a cookbook before heading to a market to buy ingredients. Now, whether someone is vegan, gluten-free, or a meat-lover, they can have dinner delivered. Some meal delivery kits come with ingredients that customers prepare themselves, while others are pre-packaged and ready to eat.
Since 2007, the number of cohabiting adults rose by 29%. The number of unmarried adults who are 50 or older and live together rose by 75%.
In 1960, the FDA approved the first birth control pill. Within five years, millions of women had prescriptions for oral contraception. In 1973, women gained legal access to abortion services. The next several decades saw a revolution in birth control options, including the IUD and Plan B, emergency contraception available over-the-counter.
Parents nationwide will be excited to hear that between 1991 to 2017, the percentage of high school students who had sexual intercourse dropped from 54% to 40%. Kids may be sexting on their smartphones from their bedrooms, but they're on track to have fewer sex partners than previous generations.
In 1960, 73% of children lived with two parents who had likely never been married before. Only 46% of kids live in that type of household today. Single or cohabiting, unmarried parents are more common than they were 50 years ago.
In 1979, people could take their music with them for the first time with the Sony Walkman. Between 1987 to 1997, the popular device led to a 30% increase in the number of people who said they walked for exercise. Cassette tapes gave way to CDs in the ‘90s, which could be listened to on the go with a Discman. Apple's iPod debuted in 2001, and now people can access an unlimited amount of music with streaming services through their smartphones.
In the 1960s, people got subscriptions to their favorite magazines. In 2018, you can subscribe to monthly services that send boxes filled with everything from scented candles or murder mystery novels to fossils, craft beer, and dog treats.
In the digital age, people can deposit or transfer money on their computers or smartphone apps. They can also get money from an ATM, further reducing the need for physical banks. While many choose to bank electronically, physical branches are still a much-needed option in many communities.
In the 1980s, 25% of men ages 65-69 reported working. That number is 40% today. People are putting off retirement, partly because people are living longer, but a lack of social benefits also plays a role.
Compared to previous decades, people are more likely to eat out than cook at home. In 2015, people spent more on eating out than on groceries for the first time ever. Fast food, paired with the ease of ordering take-out and delivery, makes eating away from home more convenient than it was 50 years ago.
In the 1960s, people were more likely to make their own clothes or buy fewer items. Since the ‘80s, consumption has increased and fashion retailers like H&M and Zara have drastically lowered clothing prices. This has lead to an increase in the amount of clothes people buy and throw away.
Over the past 50 years, obesity rates have risen dramatically in both teenagers and adults. Since people are choosing to eat out more—and portions are up to four times larger than they were in the ‘50s—it's become harder to identify a healthy portion of food.
Side-by-side refrigerators entered the market in 1949, but weren't common until the ‘60s. Back then, it was a novelty to have a freezer that would prevent frostbite on food. The 2018 smart fridge is much more energy-efficient than it was 50 years ago, and can track expiration dates and order food. Close to 100% of American homes have a refrigerator; 23% of homes have two.