Native Americans also experienced significant changes to their way of life during this era. The railroads brought more settlers to their land, and cities began to arise in the West. The result was increasing conflict -- and many massacres orchestrated by government forces, as Western Native Americans, who had limited contact with settlers to this point, saw their lands inundated and their way of life threatened, so say nothing of the disease. The conflict, disease and loss of this way of life permanently gutted Native American societies -- they might have been the biggest losers of the industrialization age their way of life all but wiped out.
Working Americans were more likely to work in a factory under dangerous conditions. They lost the dignity in their work -- they were not longer artisans but merely cogs in somebody else's machine. They were more likely to live in tenements -- urban living conditions during industrialization were terrible. Children were increasingly pressed into hard labor during this period, as wages were so low that the entire family would have to work. One change that was more positive for workers was the rise of suburbs, allowing better trained or educated workers to escape the tenements, and there was a proliferation of entertainment during this era as well, including sports, fuelled by the economies of scale allowed for by cities. Such escapes found enthusiastic audience with people who otherwise had nothing but work or drink to live for.
The heritage of slavery held back economic development in the South, because there was reluctant to raise wages for blacks, and this left businesses there with smaller markets. Ongoing social unrest is a legacy of slavery in the South to this day. Reconstruction was a truncated effort in this regard. There was some overhaul of laws regarding the rights of African-Americans, and attempts to rebuild the South, but Southern resistance to these plans and growing northern disinterest left Reconstruction a half-finished project. The ongoing segregation not only left the South economically stunted but created social problems that are ongoing to this day in America, and hold the country back.
There were several major turning points in American history after the Civil War. During the earlier years after the war, there was the reintegration of the South into the Union, a gradual process that was eventually completed. As noted, Reconstruction itself was never completed and the abandonment of Reconstruction is one of the biggest turning points in American history. Two industrial developments stand out. The first is the development of the railroad and the second the discovery of oil (and subsequent development of the automobile). These two developments sparked the industrialization of American and spurred the different changes noted in this essay. Arguably, a major social change occurred with the backlash to industrialization and corruption -- put together the creation of the AFL, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and other incidents led to the rise of the 20th century labor-business dynamic that presided over the greatest economic expansion in the nation's history.
Government policies during this era were interesting, because they were often poor. Reconstruction was a noble effort, but suffered a lack of northern enthusiasm and from southern rejection. Jim Crow laws did nothing to help the state of race relations, further setting the country back socially and the South economically. Government policies during much of the era were so staunchly pro-business that social order suffered, and politicians became highly corrupt. Big business flourished, but many other groups suffered during this era.
Westward expansion is colored by this as well. The government encouraged the buildout of railroads and factories, and provided military assistance to settlers in the West. This opened up lands for them to farm and allowed for the development of cities in the West, but it also devastated the lives of the local Native Americans. Government policies of direct violence towards them resonate negative in Native American communities today. Only towards the end of this era, when government began to respond to citizen anger and tackle corruption, monopolies and other negative effects of industrialization, did the government mount a strong and intelligent response directed at building a better society.