Social Effects of the Great Depression: Impact & Consequences
Social Effects of the Great Depression for kids: The Presidents during the Great Depression
Social Effects of the Great Depression for kids - Part 1
Facts about Social Effects of the Great Depression
The Roaring Twenties was a period of prosperity for many Americans and witnessed new inventions and changing lifestyles. Women had been given the right to vote, challenged traditional ideas of a woman's role and experienced a high level of independence. The era encompassed a feeling of exuberance, optimism and invincibility. disappeared almost overnight triggered by the 1929 Wall Street Crash and economic collapse in the United States.
Optimism to Despair: The optimism disappeared almost overnight when the Wall Street Crash, on October 29, 1929 (Black Tuesday), triggered the Great Depression starting the downward economic spiral that led to bankruptcies, mass unemployment, homelessness and despair.
Social Effects of Debt: Few Americans were prepared for the economic crash. Carried away by the emergence of new products, the rise of Consumerism in the 1920s and the easy credit that was made available. Between 3-4 million Americans (about 10 percent of US households) had invested in the Stock Market, 'buying on margin' with loaned money. Many Americans were in debt. Many lost their life savings. Those that became unemployed would also lose their homes.
Suicides: The reaction to the crash was a series of suicides by men who could not handle their failure, shame, loss of prestige and loss of status in their community. Suicide rates, which averaged 12.1 per 100,000 people in the early1920s jumped to an alarming 18.9 per 100,000 people in 1929 and remained high throughout the Great Depression. These terrible deaths took there toll on the deceased family in terms of grief, loss and in their quality of life. As the reality of the prolonged Great Depression hit home there were more suicides.
Social Effects of Class separation: Distinct class separation between the poor, the middle class and the wealthy had evolved in the cities. Class separation was based on the neighborhoods where people lived and the type of houses they lived in. Separation by class and the stark contrasts between the neighborhoods fostered additional resentment and increased discontent during this sad time in American history.
Poor and Lower Class Americans: At the start of the Great Depression there were already nearly 18 million poor, elderly, disabled and single mothers living at a basic subsistence level in America. Rapid, unplanned Urbanization, fueled by the Industrialization of America, led to the poor, lower class Americans living in tall, narrow tenement buildings in dark, overcrowded, squalid and unhealthy living conditions in densely populated and highly congested neighborhoods. Ethnic enclaves housed members of minority groups, referred to as ghettos.
Social Effects on Middle Class Americans: The families of Middle Class Americans had enjoyed the prosperity, ostentation and conspicuous consumption of the Roaring Twenties that fostered a belief that they were better than others. The wages of the middle class were more than double those of the poor. Hard times hit many Middle class families as debts accumulated through 'Margin Loans' had to be repaid immediately. Loans on 'easy credit', for various consumer goods such as automobiles or refrigerators, still had to be repaid. Numerous small banks collapsed and people lost their life savings. Family homes in comfortable 6-8 roomed houses had to be sold to cover debts and back taxes. Those that managed to keep their houses could no longer afford electricity. And servants had to be dismissed adding to the rising unemployment figures.
Social Effects of Unemployment: The major effect of the economic crisis was mass unemployment. 20,000 businesses went bankrupt and closed. Industrial production halved and foreign exports plummeted. Over 12 million people became unemployed (25% of the population). Americans who lost their jobs could not repay their debts, feed themselves, pay their rent or mortgage or support their family.
Exclusion from Socializing: Unemployment created feelings of alienation within the community. Poverty stricken families were unable to bear the cost of socializing, were unable to fit in and many experienced the shame of being snubbed by more affluent people. The social life of the unemployed family was therefore significantly reduced.
Wage Cuts: Those that kept their jobs were subjected to considerable wage cuts, cuts in working hours and declining working conditions. There were so many unemployed that unscrupulous employers were able to 'call all the shots' which led to the depersonalization and the detriment of workers who were terrified of losing their jobs. Labor Unions had become ineffective following WW1 and during the 1920s.
Social Effects of Poverty: Poverty levels increased in America. Those living in poverty are defined as those denied an income sufficient to meet their basic needs. 'Basic Needs' are defined as food, water, clothing and shelter. People living in poverty suffered from the effects of unemployment such as homelessness, inadequate housing, hunger, family breakdowns - exclusion from their community and poor health which all lead to the negative social effects of the era. For additional facts and info refer to Great Depression Poverty
Relief and Welfare: There was no government financed "safety net" of welfare or relief programs at the beginning of the period. State governments were unable to respond to the situation and many charities could no longer provide even minimum assistance for all those in need.
Social Effects of Racial Discrimination: Racial discrimination increased during the era towards African Americans and immigrants. African Americans and immigrants were the first to be laid off. In 1932, the district of Harlem in New York had an unemployment rate of 50%, double that of white Americans. Intensified racial discrimination created resentment and distrust and increasing feelings of inequality as people were treated as undervalued members of society.
Discrimination against Women: Women workers also faced heavy discrimination and social criticism during the era as women were denied jobs in favor of men. Many women were compelled to look for job during the hard times to ensure the survival of their family. Women were often fired if the employer found out that she was married. Traditional labor unions almost entirely excluded women during the early 1930s.
Evictions: Families were evicted from their homes. In 1932 alone, 273,000 families were evicted from their homes. Some moved in with other family members, others had to face the immediate problems of homelessness bringing fear, uncertainty, insecurity, destitution and the loss of home comforts.
Social Effects of Overcrowding: The social effects of evictions led to severe overcrowding, especially in towns and cities. Cramped living conditions, harmed family relationships, led to arguments, abuse, discontent and health issues. The effects of overcrowding caused depression, stress, loss of self-esteem and anxiety.
Social Effects of Homelessness: Homelessness resulted in people living in squalid living condition with inadequate sanitation and lack of clean drinking water. The poverty-stricken homeless also went hungry and insufficient food and poor nutrition lead to a variety of diseases and illnesses. Homelessness resulted in numerous health issues and severe problems of a personal nature.
Medical Facilities: Homeless people were without access to medical or health facilities and due to poor nutrition were unable to easily fight off illness and disease. At least 33% of deaths were due to poverty related causes such as homelessness.
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|Social Effects of the Great Depression - Part 2|