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Key Issues in U.S. History

he AP test pays special attention to social and economic trends. Knowing trends lets you tie events together for AP essays and pick out answers that don't fit on multiple-choice questions.

The United States is the largest, most diverse multiethnic and multiracial society in history, but all but one of the U.S. presidents have been a white male, and all but one have been male Protestants. Economic and social structures tend to keep society the same.

Despite established structures, change happens. In the 1800s, people usually worked 10, 12, or even 14 hours a day. Today, the 8-hour workday is the norm. In 1950, most Southern restaurants, hotels, and movie theaters didn't allow blacks to even come in the door. Today integration is the law of the land. In most of the United States in 1916, women couldn't even vote. Now women are in offices everywhere. Trends show how society changes.


The United States is the most diverse country in the world today, but it was already that way at the time of the Revolution. Diversity helped to build understanding and a center of new ideas in 1776. Every major country in the world has contributed citizens to the United States. The Germans, Irish, Chinese, Polish, Italians, Japanese, and Africans have all taken turns being discriminated against and finally celebrated as part of the American experience.

Racial discrimination isn't quite over in the United States, but it raises its ugly head less in this country than in most other places on earth. The U.S. actually maintains a diversity visa, which provides a worldwide lottery for 50,000 people from countries that haven't sent many new citizens to the U.S. The people who win the drawing get to live in the United States. More than 9 million hopeful immigrants apply every year.

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