The 1920s, labeled the roaring twenties, was a decade marked with cultural and economic change. As the decade began, the country was recovering from the impact of the Spanish Flu Pandemic, and the last of American troops were returning home from World War I.
The decade gave us the likes of Louis Armstrong, Amelia Earhart, Jazz, Mickey Mouse, and of course, the Charleston. Congress passed laws expanding women’s voting rights and granting full citizenship to all American Indians. Yes, we needed a law for that. Crazy, huh!
The twenties was also a decade of economic prosperity. Consumer spending skyrocketed with the advancement of technology. The automobile industry was soaring with new cars including the Ford Model T in 1924. The sexual revolution was ignited with all the freedom and promise the 1920s was waving in the air.
Of course, the twenties would end with the beginning of the Great Depression. The economic prosperity would be short-lived and as Dickens said, “It was the best of times and it was the worst of times.”
Fast forward one hundred years and the similarities are striking. The country is recovering from a global pandemic and the culture is hyper-charged about a return to “normal.” Normal seems a lot closer than it did even five weeks ago. Vaccines are becoming more accessible and cases are beginning to drop. Barring a post-spring break surge, the pandemic has become much more manageable. While there is light at the end of a long dark tunnel, I don’t think these twenties will roar quite the same.
Could the return to normal be the beginning of another roaring decade? Many suggest that this decade will deliver a similar cultural and economic shift rivaling that of the twenties. The economic impact is quite possible. Consumer confidence is rising as the government continues to forcefully stimulate the economy. That level of confidence is dependent on your economic status.
The stimulus is timely for lower-class families who are still recovering from the impact of the pandemic. The country’s poor were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. The state’s unemployment rate is holding at 4.7 percent, which is an increase of over 2 percent year over year. Low-income families often feel the deepest impact from an unsteady job market.
I am no economist, but as the state begins to open back up I expect we will continue to see short-term consumer spending re-stimulate the economy. The middle class has been suppressed due to the pandemic. They will most likely be ready to spend what they were able to save during the pandemic.
The cultural impact of a post-covid world will likely be greater than the economic one. You might not have felt much of an economic impact during the pandemic, but we all have been impacted socially. As more and more people become vaccinated and restrictions are lifted, we will ease back into social gatherings as quickly as we pulled away from them a year ago.
The things we missed so much will return and life will feel ordinary once again. Perhaps the return to normalcy will renew an appreciation for the things once taken for granted, like Sunday dinners, lunch with friends, and being together with loved ones for the holidays.
There is a glimmer of hope that the shared experiences of the pandemic will lead to a cultural revolution of sorts. I’m hopeful these experiences, the people we have lost, and the time that has passed will serve as a bridge to bring us together. Maybe it is possible that the thing that has divided us could also be the thing that brings us back together again. For a world like that, maybe these twenties can roar too.