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Young people, who were just starting to be called “teenagers,” had far more disposable income than ever before.

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Structural racism meant that the new wealth was far from equally distributed.

But between 19, per-capita GDP increased by 35 percent.

There was the explosion of fast-food joints, drive-in movie theaters, restaurants.

So there were many new things for young daters to do.

Lam: Has this social ritual been tied to work ever since? Weigel: Yes, I would say that dating has been tied both to work and to the consumer economy ever since it was invented—in a number of different ways.

Perhaps the most obvious is that what people do on dates changes as the economy changes.

And for everyone to be able to participate, it made perfect sense that everyone needed a boyfriend and girlfriend.

It was also a moment of egalitarianism, mass culture, full employment, and full participation.

As part of her research, Weigel read dating-advice books from the 1800s and hundreds of articles on dating from teen and women’s magazines over the years, and she found two common themes: First, there is usually an older part of the population that perceives dating to be “dying,” or, at least, as not being done “appropriately.” Second, Weigel found that the way people date has almost always been tied to the market forces of their era. Starting in the 1890s and 1900s, a huge number of young Americans began moving to cities and a huge number of women in particular began working outside of homes—their own homes, or homes where they might have worked as governesses or maids.

Previously, courtship rituals had taken place in private places, almost always chaperoned by relatives or other authority figures.

And I think those ideas seeped into how the culture thought about romance and dating as well.

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