Teenage Consumer Habits From the 1940s to the Present

Photograph by David Brandon Geeting

1941 Popular Science prints a new word—“teen-ager”—in a sentence claiming they “never knew teen-agers could be so serious.”

The word was quickly ushered into the cultural lexicon: Life magazine wrote about the “new importance” of teenage girls in 1944. A year later, the New York Times Magazine published the Teen-Age Bill of Rights, including, naturally, “the right to have fun.”

The ascent of the teenager acknowledged that adolescents, as they were formally known, were a distinct social group that could be easily marketed to. The soda company 7 Up was among the first to do so, referring to itself in a ’50s print ad as the “cool pet of the teen set.” That same decade, the average American teen earned more in weekly allowance than some families took home in a week during the Depression, giving youth increased spending power. Here, a showcase of their changing consumer habits.

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