What life was like 50 years ago in America, compared to now in 2022

Here are 9 ways the US changed from 1972 to 2022

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A lot can change in 50 years.

Take a quick look at how the U.S. has changed from 1972 to 2022. From music and fashion to monumental political events and notable economic statistics.

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Top Song

At the start of 1972, the top song in the U.S. was "Brand New Key" by Melanie, according to Billboard’s Hot 100 list.

In 2022, Mariah Carey’s holiday hit "All I Want for Christmas Is You" dominated the Billboard Hot 100. The song was originally released in 1987.

Bell-Bottoms

Detail photo of a girl wearing flared jeans.

Detail photo of a girl wearing flared jeans. (iStock)

Bell-bottom jeans were a popular fashion staple for men and women in 1972. Fast-forward 50 years and bell-bottoms are trendy again among Gen Z.

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Space Shuttle Program

The International Space Station photographed by Expedition 56 crew members from a Soyuz spacecraft after undocking. Image of ISS as of Oct. 4, 2018. 

The International Space Station photographed by Expedition 56 crew members from a Soyuz spacecraft after undocking. Image of ISS as of Oct. 4, 2018.  (NASA)

President Richard Nixon and NASA Administrator James Fletcher introduced the Space Shuttle Program on Jan. 5, 1972. Since then, the program has had a list of achievements, including the construction of the International Space Station, the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope and several spacelab missions.

In 2022, billionaires Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson are racing to build reliable space tourism.

Gas Prices

On average, the cost of gas in the U.S. in 1972 was 36 cents per gallon.

On average, the cost of gas in the U.S. in 1972 was 36 cents per gallon. (iStock)

On average, the cost of gas in the U.S. in 1972 was 36 cents per gallon, according to data from the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. 

Now national gasoline retail prices average around $4.49 per gallon, according to an updated Short-Term Energy Outlook forecast from the Energy Information Administration.

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Median Income

According to the Census Bureau, the median family income was $11,120.

According to the Census Bureau, the median family income was $11,120. (iStock)

According to the Census Bureau, the median family income was $11,120, which came from 54.4 million American families. That number had risen to $67,521 by 2020 – the most up-to-date information the statistical agency has.

Median Cost of a House

In 1972, the median sales price of a new home sold in the U.S. was $27,600.

In 1972, the median sales price of a new home sold in the U.S. was $27,600. (iStock)

In 1972, the median sales price of a new home sold in the U.S. was $27,600, according to data published by the Census Bureau. More up-to-date figures from 2020 state the median sales price of a new home was $336,900.

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Drinking Age

There was no standardized federal drinking age in 1972.

There was no standardized federal drinking age in 1972. (iStock)

There was no standardized federal drinking age in 1972. Several U.S. states had a minimum drinking age of 18. The Federal Uniform Drinking Age Act of 1984 standardized the legal drinking age to 21, which still stands to this day.

Watergate

A burglary inside the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate office complex in Washington in June 1972 grew into a wide-ranging political scandal that culminated in the resignation of President Richard Nixon two years later.

A burglary inside the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate office complex in Washington in June 1972 grew into a wide-ranging political scandal that culminated in the resignation of President Richard Nixon two years later. (AFP via Getty Images)

On June 17, 1972, the Watergate scandal began when five men broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C. The scandal ultimately led to the resignation of President Nixon in 1974. Read more about the Watergate scandal’s timeline here.

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Vietnam War

People visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Veterans Day in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 11, 2015.

People visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Veterans Day in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 11, 2015. (REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

On Aug. 11, 1972, the U.S. withdrew its last ground troops from South Vietnam. The war was officially declared over in the summer of 1975 when North and South Vietnam unified under the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The country has remained a one-party Communist state in Southeast Asia.

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