Daily Life during the Great Depression
For about 30-40% of the US population during the 1930s Great Depression, life went on pretty much as normal. Some of the families of the very rich did not even notice there was a depression. Some of the families of the very poor did not notice either; they had always coped. The middle class was hit very hard. Life had boomed during the Roaring Twenties. Credit and the installment plan allowed many middle class families to buy a house for the first time. They bought cars. They purchased new inventions like refrigerators that ran on electricity. They bought all kinds of stuff, much of it on the installment plan with credit. Life was happy.
When the stock market crashed in 1929, President Hoover told Americans that this was a short term down trend, and not to worry. Some middle class families believed him. They continued to buy things on credit. But some middle class families began to feel a tightening in their budgets. Some jobs became part-time. Some people were let go. Some people lost their homes. People found themselves living on the street or in Hoovervilles that were springing up all over the country. Many of the newly homeless were not good at coping because they had never coped before, not like this, not facing total poverty, with no job in sight, and no way to feed their children or themselves without charity from others. The government did not help. President Hoover believed people should be self-reliant and not depend upon the government for help. People were panicked and terrified and angry.
There were many causes for the Great Depression, but the result was that by the time FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt) was elected president in 1932, and began serving his first four-year term in March 1933, life had become grim for about 60% of the American population. Over 28% were completely out of work. Many millions of families had been evicted from their homes. FDR's first 100 days in office became historic because he passed so many new laws and set up so many new government agencies, more than any president had ever done before in their first 100 days in office. Each had a mission - relief, recovery, or reform. These programs were collectively called the New Deal, and their missions called the 3Rs.
As these programs were implemented, things got better. But daily life during the Great Depression remained a struggle for survival for many millions of people. This struggle lasted nearly a decade. It took a world war, World War II, to put the country back on its feet, with the need for soldiers, uniforms, armaments, and women to return to the workplace. The Great Depression changed daily life in America forever.
Return to: The Great Depression for Kids