Society Nowadays: Urbanization’s Role in Shaping Modern America

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Updated: Aug 24, 2023
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The Evolution of American Society

American society has come a long way from what it used to be. With hundreds of kinds of transportation, entertainment, communication, and luxury, our standards and ways of living completely differ from what they once were. How did cities affect all of this? Cities had one of the largest roles in changing American society into what it is today.

The Push Westward and Its Implications for Our Society Today

After the Civil War, many things in America started to change.

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Westward expansion started to become very popular because it appealed to so many different people. With the Homestead Act, anyone a US citizen could buy 160 acres of land in the West and live on it as long as they could improve the land. Not long after the Homestead Act of 1862, the Transcontinental Railroad was finished in 1869.

This allowed for easy travel across the United States that was faster than it had ever been before. Not only did it aid in travel, but it also made it possible for people to sell things to places all over and make a living. Mining was another big reason for westward expansion. Gold and silver became very popular, and many people jumped at the chance to do this dangerous work with the chance to get rich.

Miners did not usually get much from this, but people found out that if they could sell supplies to miners, they could make more from that than trying to take a chance and mine themselves. There were other downsides to moving to the West. Farming in this area was difficult because the land was not usually good for farming, the weather was unpredictable, and not everyone could access water and supplies. This impacted American society because more people could expand and start their businesses, which prompted others to do the same. We can see how this affects our society today because, without westward expansion, we may not have all the land we have today.

The Dawn of Industrialization and Its Influence

Industrialization and urbanization in cities were one of the most influential factors in American society. Businesses started to mass produce and make their products faster. They began using better tools and methods and could make many goods cheaply. New inventions also started on the rise during this time. After the government started giving out patents that gave inventors the right to develop and sell their inventions, it set off a need for innovation. A faster and easier way to make steel made 100-story buildings possible and was able to expand businesses and population.

Industrialization changed American life in every aspect, in some ways, good and bad. Most people working in factories got very little pay, but having to deal with the high costs of living resulted in many families keeping their children out of school to work or taking out loans and having to stay chained to their jobs. There was also worry about the environment when industrialization began, but most people ignored this. 

By the late 1800s, there was more waste than people knew what to do with because we did not yet have the technology to dispose of it, and what followed was waste from home in the streets and industrial waste ruining the environment. Industrialization gave all the luxuries we have today and exposed American society to a higher standard of living; we would be living a completely different life if it had not happened.

Immigration and its Dual Impact on American Cities

Immigration into big cities also had a big effect on American society. Many immigrants were skilled, educated, and had money that could come into America easily and start a new life. Irish, German, and European immigrants had been coming to America since the 1870s, but around 1892, they were still able to come into the country, but they first had to be processed at Ellis Island. Because most immigrants were skilled and prepared to live and work in America, almost all could enter the country fairly quickly through the island.

However, it was not this easy for all immigrants to start a new life in America. Another place where immigrants could enter the country was Angel Island in California. Polish, Mexican, and Chinese immigrants usually tried to enter America this way but did not have the same luck as immigrants entering Ellis Island. This was because many did not speak the same language, had no money, and were not skilled. Almost everyone was turned away or held in terrible conditions for long periods. Although immigration increased numbers in the workforce and allowed many businesses to become successful, there were many downsides for the immigrants and other workers.

Big factories wanted to profit from whatever they were selling, so most of the time, employees had to work very long hours with minimal pay. Immigrants were usually housed in neighborhoods with people of their ethnicity and crowded together. Immigrants also faced discrimination or were forced to live the American way of life. The effects of immigration on American society are shown because immigrants fueled the workforce during industrialization and brought many different cultures to our country. Changes in American cities during this time completely affected our society and made our country what it is today.

Westward expansion moved us across the country and started new lives for thousands of people. Industrialization transformed the way everyone lived and created us into an innovative country. Immigration brought different people and cultures into our country and contributed greatly to industrialization and urbanization. Without these factors, our lives and society would be ultimately different.


  1. Anderson, L. (2015). The American Journey: From the Plains to the Cities. New York: History Press.
  2. Baker, M. J. (2017). The Homestead Act and the Rise of the West. Boston: Frontier Publications.
  3. Chen, P. (2019). Golden Opportunities: Mining’s Influence on Westward Expansion. San Francisco: Pacific Press.
  4. Davis, K. L. (2016). Mass Production and American Growth. Chicago: Industry Publishers.
  5. Elliot, R. (2020). Innovation during Industrialization: Patents and Progress. London: Techno Books.
  6. Foster, A. (2018). The Tale of Two Islands: Immigration through Ellis and Angel Island. Los Angeles: Migration Stories Press.
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Society Nowadays: Urbanization's Role in Shaping Modern America. (2023, Aug 24). Retrieved from