Daily Life and Popular Culture in the 1980s

American Life in the 80s

 American Family in the 1980

The 1980s were an exciting time for Americans. Many new types of technology and forms of entertainment were emerging.
What were some of these new items?
What was daily life like in the 1980s?

Families in the 80s

The American family was changing in the 1980s. Many families felt a need to increase their disposable income, and as a result, more and more women continued entering the workforce.
Divorce Rates in the 80s
Additionally, broken marriages were becoming more commonplace with divorce rates reaching their peak in the latter half of the 1970s and remaining high throughout the 1980s. Also, many women were choosing to remain single and pursue professional careers. As a result, single parent families became a significant part of the American cultural landscape.
Single Parents in the 80s
This led to an increased reliance on daycare, with many small children spending time in nurseries during the day.

Income and Prices

The average income for an employee varied throughout the decade. In 1980, the average salary was a little more than $19,000, while the average  salary in 1989 was just over $27,000.
Average Salary in the 80s
Of course, an individual’s salary largely depended on their chosen profession. The prices of various products rose as well. For example, the price of a new home in 1980 was about $68,700, yet by 1989, the average price of a new home was $120,000. 
Average House Real estate price in the 1980 1989 80s
A new car might have cost someone about $7,000 in 1980, but in 1989, it might  have cost more than $15,000. Once again, various makes and models of cars would have changed these  numbers significantly.
Car 80s
  The prices of other items might not have fluctuated as much. The average price of a gallon of milk in the 1980s was $1.70 and a loaf of bread was 86 cents. A good pair of athletic shoes might have cost about $55, while a nice blouse cost about $16. The average price for a gallon of gas was $1.15.
A pair of shoes in the 80s price
With increasing amounts of leisure time, the American public yearned for  entertainment.

Technology in the 80s

Fortunately, there were several technological advances that allowed families to be entertained at home. One of the most prominent was the rise of cable television. While cable was available in the 1970s, it did not become a household feature  until the 1980s. Cable TV introduced families to a much wider array of viewing choices.
Cable TV 80s
Teenagers could watch the latest popular music videos on MTV (Music  Television), while those seeking information could check out the around-the-clock news coverage on CNN (Cable News Network). Sports-minded viewers could tune into the sports network, ESPN, while children were entertained by Nickelodeon. Cable television also brought rise to children’s daytime programming.
MTV in the 80s TV
Every day after school, kids would rush home to watch the latest episodes of GI Joe, Transformers, Thundercats, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, and The Real  Ghostbusters. Each of these programs had a successful line of toys associated with them. In fact, this type of programming often received criticism, as many adults believed that the shows were nothing more than half-hour-long toy commercials.
Network television still provided countless hours of entertainment for families in the evening. The most popular television programs included hour-long dramas such as Dallas and Dynasty. The Dukes of Hazzard, Magnum PI, and Murder, She Wrote were also highly popular programs.
Most watched TV series in the 80s
Miami Vice, while only cracking the top ten in ratings one year (1987), had a significant impact on men’s fashion in the late 1980s. Several half-hour-long situation comedies were also popular, including Family Ties, Who’s the Boss, and Growing Pains.
Miami Vice Fashion impact in the 80s
The most popular program of the decade was The Cosby Show starring Bill  Cosby. The Cosby Show topped the ratings chart every year from 1985 to 1990. Despite the popularity of television, many families were also going out to the  movies in the 1980s. Raiders of the Lost Ark made Harrison Ford a box office sensation and  established Indiana Jones as a legendary character.
TV Shows in the 80s
Eddie Murphy also emerged as a rising star, featuring in movies such as Beverly Hills Cop and 48 Hours. Other popular films of the decade included ET: The Extraterrestrial, Ghostbusters, Gremlins,  The Karate Kid, Back to the Future, and Top Gun. A number of comedy films such as Caddy Shack, Stripes, Porky’s, and Police Academy became classics of the genre. A rivalry also developed between two competing horror film franchises. Each year (except 1983) saw a new Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street film as Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger became iconic characters.
Scary Movies in the 80s
However, Americans were no longer restricted to just watching movies in the  theater.
Scary Movies 80s
The video cassette recorder (VCR) allowed families to watch movies in the  comfort of their own home. Videocassette rentals became big business during the decade. Families could see a movie just months after the film had left the theaters. Additionally, the VCR allowed people to record a favorite television program so  that it could be viewed at a later date.
Family watching vhs in the 80s
Handheld camcorders also made it possible to record birthday parties, live  performances, and other events that a family might want to emember.
Hold Everything camera commercial in the 80s ad
Video games moved from the arcade and into people’s homes in the 1980s. The Atari 2600 was the first video game system that most families purchased. While the system was available in the late 1970s, it became a staple of family  ntertainment in the early 1980s. In the latter half of the decade, the Nintendo entertainment System (NES)  redefined the video game. 
Atari Controller Consoles in the 80s
Many iconic video game franchises began on the NES, including Super Mario  Brothers, The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Mega Man, and Final Fantasy. By the time the NES was discontinued in 1995, nearly 62 million of them had been sold. 

Sports in the 80s

Americans found entertainment outside of the home as well. Professional sports flourished during the decade. The National Football League (NFL) produced numerous stars, including Joe  Montana and Jerry Rice. Their San Francisco 49ers won four Super Bowls throughout the 1980s.
Meanwhile, the 1985 Chicago Bears became a cultural phenomenon, even  producing a hit song, “The Super Bowl Shuffle,” while on their way to winning the Super Bowl. The National Basketball Association (NBA) spawned a spirited rivalry between  Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.
Larry Bird and Magic Johnson NBA 80S
Bird’s Celtics won three NBA titles, while Johnson’s Lakers won five  championships. In 1984, Americans became enthralled with the Summer Olympics, which were hosted in Los Angeles. Gymnasts Mary Lou Retton and Bart Conner became household names, and  track and field star Carl Lewis won four gold medals. In boxing, Mike Tyson became the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world in 1988.


In music, compact discs were available in some parts of the country, but they were rather expensive. Therefore, most families listened to their music on cassette tapes, and records  were still fairly common. 
MJ in the 80s
The most popular performer of the decade was Michael Jackson. Jackson’s 1982 album, Thriller, became the world’s best-selling album, selling more than 66 million copies. Aside from Michael Jackson, other performers became famous as well. Madonna burst onto the scene mid-decade, producing seven chart-topping songs from 1984 through 1989, along with another eight that finished in the top five.
Madonna in the 80s
Rap music was also becoming a prominent force in popular music. Run-D.M.C. and L.L. Cool J were amongst the most popular rappers of the 1980s.
The Beastie Boys album Licensed to Ill became the first rap album to top the pop charts. Trendy fashion became increasingly important in the 1980s, especially amongst the younger generation.
Rap Music in the 80s
Fashion tended to mimic what was being worn in movies, on television, and by musical performers. As a result, teased hair and excessive makeup became popular. Many teenage girls also wore large hoop earrings, bangles, bracelets, and other accessories. Neon colors became prominent, and millions of kids began wearing athletic shoes made by either Nike or Reebok.
Sneakers in the 80s
It should be noted that not every family experienced the 1980s in the same way. These were just a few of the broad trends that were predominant throughout the decade. Each family and each individual had a unique situation, with their own stories, tastes, and preferences.

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