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The Great Depression, Effects of the Depression

Hoover flags, Hoover blankets, shanties, gross national product, Dust Bowl

After the crash, the economy raced downhill. Unemployment, which affected 3 percent of the labor force in 1929, reached 25 percent in 1933. With one out of four Americans out of work, people stopped spending money. Demand for durable goods—housing, cars, appliances—and luxuries declined, and production faltered. By 1932 the gross national product had been cut by almost one-third. By 1933 over 5,000 banks had failed, and more than 85,000 businesses had gone under.

The effects of the Great Depression were devastating. People with jobs had to accept pay cuts, and they were lucky to have work. In cities, the destitute slept in shanties that sprang up in parks or on the outskirts of town, wrapped up in “Hoover blankets” (newspapers) and displaying “Hoover flags” (empty pockets). On the Great Plains, exhausted land combined with drought to ravage farms, destroy crops, and turn agricultural families into migrant workers. An area encompassing parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado became known as the Dust Bowl. Family life changed drastically. Marriage and birth rates fell, and divorce rates rose. Unemployed breadwinners grew depressed; housewives struggled to make ends meet; young adults relinquished career plans and took whatever work they could get.

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