The stock market crash of 1929 greatly affected life in the 1930s. Before 1929, the economy was flourishing and families bought homes and cars in record numbers, often on credit. As a result of the stock market crash, many families lost their homes and one-quarter of the workforce lost their jobs. Most Americans were forced to adapt to changing economic conditions by making significant changes to their lifestyles.
Hoovervilles and the Dust Bowl
Due to worsening economic conditions in the 1930s, many families were forced to leave their homes and search for any shelter they could afford. Some families even lived in "Hoovervilles." These shanty towns were named after President Hoover because he had underestimated the effects of the stock market crash of 1929. In these areas, makeshift homes were made out of abandoned cars and any scrap materials that could be found. Families also migrated to other areas of the country in search of work. A combination of drought, dust storms, low market prices for farm crops and a lack of soil conservation practices caused many farmers vacate their homes, leaving behind the Dust Bowl. The Dust Bowl included nearly all of the Midwest states. Many farmers migrated to California in search of work, but no matter where families went, jobs were scarce.
Entertainment During the Great Depression
With little or no income, Americans had to find cheap forms of entertainment. Stamp collecting was a common hobby and board games began were a common form of entertainment for families, especially with the invention of the game Monopoly in 1935. The radio was also an important part of life in the 1930s. Radio programs, such as the Lone Ranger, Jack Benny and Amos and Andy, offered an escape from the Great Depression and the economic crisis. Americans also gathered around radios to listen to Franklin Roosevelt's "fireside chats." The radio also provided information and news about the rest of the world and the changes taking place in the U.S.
Families and the Great Depression
The Great Depression had a profound impact on families. During the 1930s, birth rates declined, mainly due to the breakup of families. Divorce rates also fell because many people could not afford legal fees or separate households. In addition, many men deserted their families or were forced to leave their homes in search of work. In fact, by 1940, 1.5 million married women were no longer living with their husbands. Children were perhaps affected the most by the Great Depression. More than 200,000 children were abandoned due to the breakup of families during the 1930s, according to the University of Houston.
The New Deal and Economic Recovery
When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected in 1932, he quickly began putting together what was called the New Deal. During the first 100 days of his presidency, Roosevelt passed numerous bills that helped lead to economic recovery. For example, the Emergency Banking Bill of 1933 stabilized and restored faith in the banking industry, and the Glass-Steagall Act created the FDIC, which federally-insured deposits. The Civil Conservation Corps was also created to lower unemployment rates. Single men ages 17 to 23 were employed in a number of projects, such as building reservoirs. A similar program, the Works Progress Administration, employed more than 8.5 million people to build public buildings and roadways. Bills were also passed to help farmers affected by the Dust Bowl, and $3 billion was given to states for work relief programs. While the New Deal did not end poverty and unemployment immediately, it created many jobs and gave Americans hope for economic recovery.
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