Diversity In The Workplace – How Different Cultures Helped Shape Our Nation Diversity in the Workplace – How Different Cultures Helped Shape Our Nation Today the United States of America is regarded as a global economic leader. The standard of living in the U.S. is higher than that of most other nations. Our nation is considered an economic super-power. Economic needs have often caused Americans to seek immigrants as workers, and economic opportunities have attracted foreigners.
The United States is a nation of immigrants. Our nation has been shaped by successive waves of immigrants who have played major roles in our changing economy. The overwhelming majority of immigrants who enter the United States come in search of jobs and a chance at a better life for themselves and their families. Economic immigrants come primarily from Europe, Asia and, most recently, Latin America. Many immigrants work in menial, low-paying jobs that most other Americans do not want to do. In the early 17th century, a group of Pilgrims sailed to our shores in search of religious freedom.
In the years to follow, many more immigrants came to colonial America. These settlers from England colonized the northeast, settling in rich, fertile areas and along the rivers and coastal plains to the south. They soon developed an economy based on the cultivation of tobacco and other crops for export back to Europe. Their dedication and hard work paved the way for our nation to be born. During the 1600’s and early 1700’s, many African American slaves were forced out of their native lands and brought to the United States in order to work in the plantations. They became essential to the economic growth of the country.
During the same time period, settlers from other European countries also established themselves in North America. Dutch and Swedish immigrants established colonies in present-day New York and Delaware. The Spanish and French also established colonies in present-day Florida, Canada and Louisiana. Many of these immigrants settled in English colonies and our economy continued to boom. In the late 1700’s, the American Revolution was fought in order to establish political and economic freedom from England.
The spirit and determination of the American people once again paved the way for growth and posterity. Our young nation began to take its first steps toward establishing itself as a world power. In 1787, the Constitutional Convention was held. Among the topics discussed by our forefathers, sectional economic interests held a forefront in the discussions between the northern and southern states. The southern states, which were not as populous as the northern states, feared that giving congress the power to regulate trade might adversely affect their economy, based mainly on the export of tobacco, rice, and on indigo and slave trading.
They demanded that legislation affecting commerce be enacted only by two-thirds majority votes, but they consented to eliminate this requirement when the northern states agreed to constitutional clauses prohibiting the federal government from levying export taxes and from interfering with the slave trade before 1808. After the Constitution was passed, immigrants from all over the world continued to enter the United States. Although most of the immigrants entered through Ellis Island in New York, many of them knew where they wanted to go. Those interested in heavy industrial work such as the steel industry went to inland cities such as Buffalo, Pittsburgh or Detroit. German immigrants generally settled in Agricultural or skilled jobs in Texas and the Midwest. Immigrants from Italy worked in unskilled jobs all over the country.
Later on, many Polish immigrants also took jobs in heavy industrial cities. The nation kept growing, and more states were added to the union. The expansion would not come without growing pains, however. Most people who were established held supervisory or white-collar positions. The majority of newcomers worked in low-ranking jobs, earning wages that were insufficient to provide a decent living for their families.
They often lived in shacks or overcrowded city dwellings, such as tenements. One-room cabins abounded in the mining areas or in the western plains. Oftentimes, immigrants encountered prejudice when seeking jobs. Freed slaves wrote songs and poems of longing for their days at the plantation, where they at least felt at home. All of these ingredients contributed to much instability. Different political and economic views would disrupt the country.
In the mid-1800’s, our nation was divided by a civil war. The country was divided between the Union, or the northern states and the Confederacy, or the southern states. While the northern states were prosperous, this division took its toll on the southern states. Although the political organization of the Confederacy was almost identical with that of the Union, the outbreak of the war served to accentuate the marked difference between the two sections. The population of the Confederacy at the start of the war was nearly 9 million including more than 3.8 million slaves. The population of the territory loyal to the Union was about 22 million, including about 500,000 slaves. The value of the improved lands of the seceding states was estimated at less than $2 billion; the value of those in the Union states was nearly $5 billion.
The South had 150 textile factories, with a product valued at $8 million; the North had 900 such factories, with a product valued at $115 million. In the South 2000 persons were employed in the manufacture of clothing; in the North 100,000 were so engaged. During 1860 the imports of the South were valued at $331 million; those of the North at $31 million. It was thus obvious that the South was dependent on Europe and on the North for material goods. The lack of resources forced the Confederacy to levy war taxes and borrow heavily on future cotton crops.
An inflationary period in 1863 and later government actions almost destroyed the Confederate credit. Although the South made desperate attempts to maintain itself in a battle against overwhelming odds, the struggles left it financially and industrially ruined at the close of the Civil War. The end of the 19th century was known as the Gilded Age. It was the age of the industrial capitalists. The majority of these empires were built in the northeast. By the turn of the century, agriculture had taken a back seat and the American Economy was largely an industrial one. In the early twentieth century, millions of immigrants entered the United States.
They sought industrial jobs in the cities of the north and engaged in agricultural jobs in California and the West Coast. After World War I, our country was marked by an increase in racism. After a brief recession, the country once again enjoyed an economic boom. Immigrants from Western Europe continued to flood Ellis Island in search of a better life. It was the age of the luxury ocean liners and the first airplanes.
The rapid expansion of the automobile industry also created a need for steel, glass and rubber. Electrical appliances were becoming standard in American homes. This increasing need created many new jobs. This boom would not last forever. Soon the market was saturated. Many laws were passed in order to restrict further immigration.
The instability that followed paved the way for the Great Depression of the 1930’s. During this time our country suffered its greatest economic setback in history. After the stock market crash of 1929, millions of Americans found themselves jobless in the years to come. Once-affluent families were forced to live in poverty. By the early 1930’s, thousands of banks had failed.
There was no work to be had. This was a difficult economic period for the United States and other countries. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt took some innovative measures to counteract the effects of the Depression, however. His New Deal would soon turn the economy around. Both Roosevelt and Congress endorsed a broad spectrum of new federal programs and agencies aimed at reducing the unemployment rate. The central focus of the New Deal was increased government involvement in the economy and in the lives of people.
All the problems had not disappeared, however. By 1937 the country was in another recession. It took the massive government spending in order to prepare for World War II to finally end the Great Depression. During this time, the national output of goods and services nearly doubled. Federal government spending also rose in overwhelming amounts.
For the first time since before the Depression, the nation was at full employment. Women, immigrants and blacks took to the factories and steel mills, left behind to perform the jobs once carried out by the soldiers who were abroad fighting the war. After World War II, immigration to the United States increased once again. Many people who had survived Nazi persecution in Europe fled to the United States. Additionally, Chinese immigrants were entering the country. A big construction boom marked these years.
The suburbs were growing rapidly and the automobile industry was flourishing. Many of the Western European immigrants took jobs in construction or in the manufacturing plants. Until the 1960’s, most immigrants to the United States came from Europe. A major change occurred in 1965 with the lifting of national-origin quota restrictions. Mexican immigrants began entering the country. Immigrants from the Eastern Hemisphere were given visas to enter as well.
Additionally, special status was given to individuals that possessed special job skills in short supply in the United States. The majority of immigrants arrived from Asia or Latin America. Most have settled in California and the Southwest. Except for the Mexican immigrants, most of the immigrants from the Caribbean and Latin American settled along the East Coast, primarily in Florida and New York. As in the past, the majority of these immigrants worked in low-paying service industry or agricultural jobs.
A large wave of Cuban-American refugees seeking political asylum entered the country. Many settled in Miami and New York. During the 1960’s the country saw a major tax cut and the unemployment rate drop. However, increased government spending brought about another recession in the 1970’s which would not be brought under control until the mid-1980’s. The early 1970’s marked the weakest U.S. economy of the post-World War II era. Rising inflation, unemployment and increased government spending marked the period.
During the Carter Administration, the nation was introduced to the term stagflation, a combination of stagnation and inflation. Petroleum prices multiplied. The rate of economic growth slowed down. Inflation increased rapidly. When Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, he introduced Reaganomics, or lower taxes and increased output.
Reagan’s economic policy was based on the idea that investment in industry and consumer spending would eventually increase tax revenues. The Gulf War and increased taxes in order to reduce the federal deficit marked the Bush Era. During this time, hundreds of thousands of immigrants entered the country as a result of lenient immigration laws. However, many of these more recent immigrants were well educated. Many immigrants have high levels of scholastic achievements and their children have prospered from the American public schools.
Today, during the Clinton Administration, the nation is enjoying a booming economy. The unemployment rate is at a record low and immigrants are once again shaping the economy. Many immigrants are working in leading edge technological jobs in an information-age economy. Companies in Silicon Valley, California have reduced the price of computer MIPs and memory bits by a factor of some 10,000 in 2 decades. Over one-third of the work force in Silicon Valley is made up of immigrants. Cultural changes and economic conditions give way to anti-immigration sentiment in this country periodically.
The most recent arrivals may experience greater difficulty in finding jobs than those at the turn of the century, a time of booming industry and unmechanized farms. One cannot help but note, nevertheless, that our country continues to be a nation of immigrants. Our economy will continue to be shaped, however directly or indirectly, by the continuing inflow of immigrants. It is this cultural diversity that has helped shape the nation since the beginning. Social Issues.