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Are we living in a second Gilded Age?Ultimately, one can argue for or against the idea that modern day society is living in a second Gilded Age. This period of time stretching from the mid-1870s to the turn of the century was coined the Gilded Age by Mark Twain in the 1920s and was meant to portray the period as having a glittering golden surface, but a corrupt underbelly. During this time, America’s economy grew at an inconceivable rate, creating unparalleled levels of wealth. Railroads, and soon enough telephone lines, stretched across the nation establishing new opportunities, especially for entrepreneurs and cheaper consumer goods. However, a nation that had considered itself a simple land with peaceful terms, a land of small farms, artisans and builders, was forced to confront the evolution of an increasingly divided society. In this society, millions of poor workers struggled to survive while the emerging industrial and financial aristocrats lived in extravagant mansions and indulged in luxurious amusement. There is considerable research to support the idea that today, history is repeating itself. However, despite the similarities between the Gilded Age and today in terms of immigration, the wealth gap, and economic growth, the paths taken by society to reach these points are very different. ImmigrationA person’s or family’s purpose for immigrating has essentially remained the same throughout history. Either they were seeking better wages, or they were driven away by religious discrimination, political upheaval, and crop failures in their homeland. In the beginning of the 19th century, the “Old Immigrants” who migrated to the States were based mainly in northern or western Europe, and were compelled to immigrate for these very reasons. They came in search of better work and a better life. By the end of the century, civilization had reached an era of “New Immigration”. These individuals “chasing the American Dream” would come from southern and eastern Europe for the same reasons: better wages and a better life. Some were wealthy farmers who had the ability to buy land and equipment in the Western states, however many were poor peasants who lacked skills, and were therefore forced into harsh manual labor environments such as mines and factories. To accommodate such a large influx of people, the government opened Ellis Island, a reception center near the Statue of Liberty, in 1892. Today, immigrants are still forced from their homelands because of poverty and bad working conditions. While an immigrant’s reasoning for coming to the United States may have remained the same throughout history, the rates have fluctuated, and immigrants no longer come from specific locations at specific periods of time.According to the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), a Washington D.C. think tank, “In 2015, 1.38 million foreign-born individuals moved to the United States, a 2 percent increase from 1.36 million in 2014.” Compared to the 11.7 million immigrants that came during the Gilded Age (and adjusting for inflation), modern day America is not receiving as many immigrants as it did during an age of major industrialism. Back in the 1800s, the majority of immigrants came from Europe, however today foreigners come from all continents except Antarctica. In fact, in 2015 the largest amount of immigrants came from India, a country which, in the Gilded Age, was under the rule of Britain who strictly forbid Indian civilians from leaving their homeland.

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