Economic expansion in the United States after World War II has often been credited with giving birth to a mass middle class. Federal policies assisted this “age of affluence.” They included a G.I. Bill that helped millions of veterans returning from war to secure higher education, jobs and healthcare, and a government-backed, low-interest, low-payment home financing system that set vast numbers of Americans on a path to the financial security that came with owning a home.
The housing boom that followed provided one of the greatest opportunities to accumulate wealth in this nation’s history. From 1940 to 1960, the proportion of households that owned the home they lived in grew from 43 percent to 62 percent. Young first-time homeowners particularly benefited, because “during this period, the real value of homes had a stable appreciation that increased property values by 35 percent.” (Chambers, et al., 2013)