Families were the principal fatalities of the Great Depression. It is essential to highlight that this period was the worst ever economic downturn in the industrialized world's history. The Great Depression lasted for a decade, between 1929 and 1939 (Crafts &Fearon 2). This period began after a crash of the stock market in October 1929. There have been arguments regarding the effects that the Great Depression had on families. Some people have argued that the Great Depression had positive effects on the families, while others have had negative views regarding its effects on families. Although individuals with positive views cannot be ignored, those who believe that the Great Depression caused more harm than benefits have valid reasons. Quintessentially, the Great Depression led to the deterioration of family health, loss of jobs, family deprivation and disorganization, increased crime rates, and over-reliant on foreign aids.
The Great Depression negatively impacted families' health. It is imperative to elucidate that during the depression, there was a 40% decline in income (Crafts & Fearon 328). In this regard, families lacked funds to cater for their medical bills. Children also suffered from malnutrition due to the inability of families to sustain a balanced diet. Moreover, families could not contribute their monthly premiums to a medical scheme. Thus, health Insurance companies terminated their contract with these families. In case families fell ill, they could not afford to pay medical bills. Subsequently, they received substandard or no treatment at all due to lack of money. Therefore, their health deteriorated as their medical conditions worsened. It is also vital to note that their deteriorating health conditions took a toll on their productivity, a situation that further worsened the economic state of the US and the entire world.
The Great Depression was a major challenge for most families as they lost their jobs. During this period, most American families experienced economic, psychological, and social strains. There was a decline in the average family income of the middle class as well as low-income Americans irrespective of the races, religion, or ethnicity. The drop in income meant that Americans were unable to sustain their previous lifestyle just before the great depression. Consequently, most Americans could not pay their bills which made them suffer psychologically and physically. Nicholas and Scherbina note that the great depression limited the ability of many Americans of paying for mortgage or rent (278). As a result, their homes were repossessed as well as being forcefully evicted. The implication for this was that middle and low-income earners became homeless as they breached the tenant-landlord agreement.
There was family deprivation and disorganization during this period. The rate of marriages declined as there were no resources to raise families. Consequently, birthrates declined leading to a decrease in the overall population of the US and other countries. Typically, families were cautious not to increase their sizes due to the tough economic times that the Great Depression brought. However, instead of divorce rates increasing as a result of internal wrangles within the family, they declined. This is attributed to the fact that tough economic times made couples unable to pay legal fees used in processing divorce. Furthermore, desertion rates rose during the Great Depression period. More than one family began living together in homes or apartments designed to accommodate single-families. Since most parents had no income or lost their savings, they could not afford to clothe their children. Consequently, most children endured cold and other unfavorable weather conditions. Also, it is crucial to note that many children were admitted to a custodial institution due to parental neglect (Elder pp. 1-389).
Crime rates increased during the Great Depression as families were rendered jobless. These families also lost their life savings and therefore could not afford basic needs such as food, shelter, and clothing. The youths began engaging in criminal activities as a way of meeting their daily needs. They engaged in pickpocketing people on the streets to get money for their fundamental needs. Moreover, they took part in organized crimes such as bank heists, and robbery with violence to acquire more cash for their lavish lifestyle (Karanikolos et al. 1323-1331). Also, more kidnappings and ransom demand rose in the US. Many people were kidnapped at gunpoint, and large amounts of money demanded to be paid in exchange for the victim. Homicide incidences also increased during the Great Depression era. People who resisted violent acts of the youths were killed and dumped in forests, abandoned buildings, or any other hidden place. It is paramount also to highlight that kidnappers killed their victims for fear of the law enforcement catching up with them. Other people were innocent bystanders during gunfire between the police and criminals.
Despite the negative effects of the Great Depression, some people argue that it helps Americans in developing positive attitudes towards government welfare programs. They argue that most American families began having a good perception of government programs as they helped these families during the financial downturn. Imperatively, welfare programs such as the New Deal Programs were initiated to help families during the Great Depression. Nevertheless, critics refute this argument by stating that many American families became over-reliant on financial aid in a bid to feed their families and offer other basic needs. They also pinpoint that most Americans never disregarded government welfare before the Great Depression. Thus, they felt humiliated and weak while embracing these programs (Mitchell 85). Also, proponents argue that the Great Depression made many women enter into the American workforce. They were employed as clerical officers, teachers, nurses, telephone operators, and so on. However, opponents counter-argue that the great depression made many women to be mistreated in workplaces as well as receive lower wages as compared to men serving in the same capacities. Therefore, they assert that the Great Depression had no good for the families since it made them suffer socially, emotionally, physically, and economically.
In general, the Great Depression had negative ramifications regarding the well-being, health, and safety of most American families. They lost the savings they had accumulated during their lifetime. They also lost their jobs, a situation that made them unable to pay their bills and mortgage loans. Thus, they lost their houses and apartments, thereby becoming homeless. Additionally, their health deteriorated as they could not afford a decent treatment. It is also critical to mention that most American families, particularly from the middle and low-income bracket, were disorganized and deprived. The tough economic times led to constant internal wrangles within the family, which threatened their harmony. Further, youths began engaging in criminal activities in a bid to acquire money to meet their basic needs. For this reason, the Great Depression bought more detrimental effects on the families than benefits.
Crafts, Nicholas, and Peter Fearon, eds. The great depression of the 1930s: lessons for today. Oxford University Press, 2013.
Elder, Glen H. Children of the great depression. Routledge, 2018.Karanikolos, Marina, et al. "Financial crisis, austerity, and health in Europe." The Lancet 381.9874 (2013): 1323-1331.
Mitchell, Broadus. The Depression Decade: From New Era through New Deal, 1929-41: From New Era through New Deal, 1929-41. Routledge, 2017.
Nicholas, Tom, and Anna Scherbina. "Real estate prices during the roaring twenties and the great depression." Real Estate Economics 41.2 (2013): 278-309.
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