Great Depression in the United States

Great Depression in the United States

The Great Depression in the United States began on "Black Tuesday" with the Wall Street crash of October, 1929 and rapidly spread worldwide. The market crash marked the beginning of a decade of high unemployment, poverty, low profits, deflation and lost opportunities for economic growth and personal advancement in the United States. Although its causes are still uncertain, the basic cause was a sudden loss of confidence in the economic future. The traditional explanation is a combination of high consumer debt, ill-regulated markets that permitted malfeasance by banks and investors, cutbacks in foreign trade, and growing wealth inequality, all interacting to create a downward economic spiral of reduced spending and production. The initial government response to the crisis exacerbated the situation; protectionist policies like the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, rather than helping the economy, merely strangled global trade. Industries that suffered the most included agriculture, mining, and logging as well as durable goods like construction and automobiles that people postponed.

The depression caused major political changes, the most notable among them being the New Deal, which instituted large-scale federal relief programs aimed to aid the agricultural industry and support labor unions. The formation of the New Deal coalition by President Franklin D. Roosevelt was another notable accomplishment. This disaster had a profound effect on the psychology of an entire generation and strongly influenced the development of postwar monetary institutions. The Great Depression remains a benchmark for evaluating financial downturns, such as the Economic crisis of 2008.

Current theories may be broadly classified into two main points of view. First, there is orthodox classical economics, monetarist, Keynesian, Austrian Economics and neoclassical economic theory, which focuses on the macroeconomic effects of money supply, including Mass production and consumption. Second, there are structural theories, including those of institutional economics, that point to underconsumption and over-investment (economic bubble), or to malfeasance by bankers and industrialists.

There are multiple originating issues: what factors set off the first downturn in 1929, what structural weaknesses and specific events turned it into a major depression, how the downturn spread from country to country, and why the economic recovery was so prolonged.

In terms of the initial 1931 downturn, historians emphasize structural factors and the stock market crash, while economists point to Britain's decision to return to the Gold Standard at pre-World War I parities ($10.98 Pound) [Peter Te min, Barry Eichengreen] . The vast economic cost of World War I weakened the ability of the world to respond to a major crisis.

Economists dispute how much weight to give the stock market crash of October 1929. According to Milton Friedman, "the stock market in 1929 played a role in the initial depression." It clearly changed sentiment about and expectations of the future, shifting the outlook from very positive to negative, with a dampening effect on investment and entrepreneurship, but some feel that an increase in interest rates by the Federal government could have also caused the slow steps into the downturn towards the Great Depression.


A Hooverville was the popular name for a shanty town built by homeless men in the depression years. The term was coined by Charles Michelson, publicity chief of the Democratic National Committee. [Hans Kaltenborn, "It Seems Like Yesterday" (1956) p. 88] Residents lived in shacks and begged for food or went to soup kitchens. Authorities did not officially recognize these Hoovervilles and occasionally removed the occupants for technically trespassing on private lands, but they were frequently tolerated out of necessity. Democrats popularized related terms such as "Hoover blanket" (old newspaper used as blanketing) and "Hoover flag" (an empty pocket turned inside out). "Hoover leather" was cardboard used to line a shoe with the sole worn through. A "Hoover wagon" was an automobile drawn by horse because the owner could not afford gasoline; in Canada, these were known as Bennett buggies. Hoover dust was smoking tobacoo.

New Deal

From 1933 onward, President Roosevelt argued a reconstruction of the economy would be needed to prevent another, or avoid prolonging the current depression. New Deal programs, such as the National Recovery Administration (NRA), sought to stimulate demand and provide work and relief for the impoverished through increased government spending. Instituting regulations which ended what was called "cut-throat competition," which kept forcing down prices and profits for everyone. (The NRA, which ended in 1935).
* Setting minimum prices and wages and competitive conditions in all industries. (NRA)
* Encouraging unions that would raise wages, to 93% increase the purchasing power of the working class. (NRA)
* Cutting farm production so as to raise prices and make it possible to earn a living in farming (done by the AAA and successor farm programs).

The most controversial aspect of the New Deal agencies was the National Recovery Administration (NRA). It lasted less than a year (1933-34) and ordered:
* businesses to work with government to set prices;
* the NBA board to set labor codes and standards.

These reforms (together with relief and recover measures) are called by historians the First New Deal. It was centered around the use of an alphabet soup of agencies set up in 1933 and 1934, along with the use of previous agencies such as the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, to regulate and stimulate the economy. By 1935, the "Second New Deal" added social security, a national relief agency (the Works Progress Administration, W.P.A) and, through the National Labor Relations Board, a strong stimulus to the growth of labor unions. Unemployment fell by two-thirds in Roosevelt's first term (from 25% to 9%, 1933 to 1937) but then remained high until 1942.

In 1929, federal expenditures constituted only 3% of the GDP. Between 1933 and 1939, they tripled, but the national debt remained about level at 40% of GNP. (The debt as proportion of GNP rose under Hoover from 20% to 40%; the debt as % of GNP soared during the war years, 1941-45.) After the Recession of 1937 and Republican victories in the 1938 elections, opponents of the New Deal, who called themselves conservatives, formed a bipartisan conservative coalition to stop further expansion of the New Deal and, by 1943, they had abolished all of the relief programs. Social Security continued. The labor laws were revised by conservatives in the Taft Hartley Act of 1947. The New Deal was, and still is, controversial and widely debated.

Recession of 1937

By 1936, all the main economic indicators had regained the levels of the late 1920s, except for unemployment, which remained high. In 1937, the American economy unexpectedly fell, lasting through most of 1938. Production declined sharply, as did profits and employment. Unemployment jumped from 14.3% in 1937 to 19.0% in 1938. The Roosevelt Administration reacted by launching a rhetorical campaign against monopoly power, which was cast as the cause of the depression, and appointing Thurman Arnold to act; Arnold was not effective, and the attack ended once World War II began and corporate energies had to be directed to winning the war. By 1939, the effects of the 1937 recession had disappeared.

Employment in private sector factories recovered to the level of the late 1920s by 1937, but did not grow much bigger until the war came and manufacturing employment leaped from 11 million in 1940 to 18 million in 1943. Another response to the 1937 deepening of the Great Depression had more tangible results. Ignoring the pleas of the Treasury Department, Roosevelt embarked on an antidote to the depression, reluctantly abandoning his efforts to balance the budget and launching a $5 billion spending program in the spring of 1938, in an effort to increase mass purchasing power. Business-oriented observers explained the recession and recovery in very different terms from the Keynesians. They argued the New Deal had been very hostile to business expansion in 1935–37, had encouraged massive strikes which fiscal stimulus required to end the downturn of the Depression was, and it led, at the time, to fears that as soon as America demobilized, it would return to Depression conditions and industrial output would fall to its pre-war levels. The incorrect Keynesian prediction of a new depression would start after the war failedFact|date=September 2008 to take account of pent-up consumer demand as a result of the Depression and World War.


The government began heavy military spending in 1940, and started drafting millions of young men that year; by 1945, 17 million had entered service to their country. But that was not enough to absorb all the unemployed. During the war, the government subsidized wages through cost-plus contracts. Government contractors were paid in full for their costs, plus a certain percentage profit margin. That meant the more wages a person was paid the higher the company profits since the government would cover them plus a percentage. In 1941-1943, many factories took in unskilled workers and trained them, often at government expense.Fact|date=September 2008 The military's own training programs also featured many new technologies, preparing soldiers and sailors for the post-war economy.

Structural barriers were lowered during the war, especially informal policies against hiring women, minorities, and workers over 45 or under 18. (See FEPC) Strikes largely ended as unions pushed their members to work harder. Tens of thousands of new factories and shipyards were built, with bus service and nursery care for children's forecast making them more accessible. Wages soared for workers, making it quite expensive to sit at home. The combination of all these factors drove unemployment below 2% in 1943. [Jensen (1989)]

ee also

*List of recessions in the United States


Further reading

* Bernanke, Ben. "Essays on the Great Depression" (Princeton University Press, 2000) Chapter One available online - "The Macroeconomics of the Great Depression" at
* Bernanke, Ben. "Money, Gold, and the Great Depression" - Speech given March 2, 2004; transcript at
* Best, Gary Dean. "Pride, Prejudice, and Politics: Roosevelt Versus Recovery, 1933-1938" (1991) ISBN 0275935248
* Best, Gary Dean. "The Nickel and Dime Decade: American Popular Culture during the 1930s." (1993) [ online edition]
* Blumberg Barbara. "The New Deal and the Unemployed: The View from New York City" (1977).
* Bordo, Michael D., Claudia Goldin, and Eugene N. White , eds., "The Defining Moment: The Great Depression and the American Economy in the Twentieth Century" (1998). Advanced economic history.
* Bremer William W. "Along the American Way: The New Deal's Work Relief Programs for the Unemployed." "Journal of American History" 62 (December 1975): 636-652 online in JSTOR
* Cantril, Hadley and Mildred Strunk, eds.; "Public Opinion, 1935-1946" (1951), massive compilation of many public opinion polls [ online edition]
* Chandler, Lester. "America's Greatest Depression" (1970). overview by economic historian.
* Elmus Wicker, "The Banking Panics of the Great Depression" 1996 [ online review]
* Eugene N. White, "The Stock Market Boom and Crash of 1929 Revisited," "The Journal of Economic Perspectives" Vol. 4, No. 2 (Spring, 1990), pp. 67-83, evaluates different theories online in JSTOR
* Friedman, Milton and Anna J. Schwartz, "A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960" (1963) ISBN 0691041474 classic monetarist explanation; highly statistical
* Grant, Michael Johnston. "Down and Out on the Family Farm: Rural Rehabilitation in the Great Plains, 1929-1945" (2002)
* Hapke, Laura. "Daughters of the Great Depression: Women, Work, and Fiction in the American 1930s" (1997)
* Himmelberg; Robert F. ed "The Great Depression and the New Deal" (2001), short overview
* Howard Donald S. "The WPA and Federal Relief Policy" (1943)
* Jensen, Richard J., "The Causes and Cures of Unemployment in the Great Depression," "Journal of Interdisciplinary History" 19 (1989) 553-83 online in JSTOR
* Kehoe, Timothy J. and Edward C. Prescott. " [ Great Depressions of the Twentieth Century] ' Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, 2007.
* Kennedy, David. "Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945" (1999), wide-ranging survey by leading scholar; [ online edition]
* Kenneth D. Roose. "The Recession of 1937-38" "Journal of Political Economy", Vol. 56, No. 3 (Jun., 1948) , pp. 239-248 online in JSTOR
* Klein, Maury. "Rainbow's End: The Crash of 1929" (2001) by economic historian
* Kubik, Paul J. "Federal Reserve Policy during the Great Depression: The Impact of Interwar Attitudes regarding Consumption and Consumer Credit" "Journal of Economic Issues", Vol. 30, 1996
* Lowitt, Richard and Beardsley Maurice, eds. "One Third of a Nation: Lorena Hickock Reports on the Great Depression" (1981)
* Lynd Robert S., and Helen M. Lynd. "Middletown in Transition." 1937. sociological study of Muncie, Indiana
* McElvaine Robert S. "The Great Depression" 2nd ed (1993) social history
* Mitchell, Broadus. "Depression Decade: From New Era through New Deal, 1929-1941" (1964), overview of economic history
* Narasimhan, Krishnamoorthy. 2018. The Great Depression: a corporate finance perspective. Thesis (Ph.D.) --Duke University, 2004.
* Parker, Randall E. "Reflections on the Great Depression" (2002) interviews with 11 leading economists
* Romasco Albert U. "Hoover-Roosevelt and the Great Depression: A Historiographic Inquiry into a Perennial Comparison." In John Braeman, Robert H. Bremner and David Brody, eds. "The New Deal: The National Level" (1973) v 1 pp 3-26.
* Rosen, Elliot A. "Roosevelt, the Great Depression, and the Economics of Recovery" (2005) ISBN 0813923689
* Rothbard, Murray N. "America's Great Depression" (1963), by leading libertarian economist
* Rothbard, Murray N. "America's Great Depression" - Online PDF. URL
* Saloutos, Theodore. "The American Farmer and the New Deal" (1982).
* Salsman, Richard M. “The Cause and Consequences of the Great Depression” in "The Intellectual Activist", ISSN 0730-2355. Mr. Salsman argues that the Great Depression was "fundamentally" caused by "statist" government policy, and ended only when government policy became "less" statist and more "laissez-faire".
** Part 1: “What Made the Roaring ’20s Roar”, June, 2004, pp. 16–24.
** Part 2: “Hoover’s Progressive Assault on Business”, July, 2004, pp. 10–20.
** Part 3: “Roosevelt’s Raw Deal”, August, 2004, pp. 9–20.
** Part 4: “Freedom and Prosperity”, January, 2005, pp. 14–23.
* Shlaes, Amity. "The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression" (2007)
* Singleton, Jeff. "The American Dole: Unemployment Relief and the Welfare State in the Great Depression" (2000)
* Sitkoff, Harvard. "A New Deal for Blacks" (1978).
* Smiley, Gene. "Rethinking the Great Depression" (2002) ISBN 1566634725 economist blames Federal Reserve and gold standard
* Smith, Jason Scott. "Building New Deal Liberalism: The Political Economy of Public Works, 1933-1956" (2005).
* Sternsher, Bernard ed., "Hitting Home: The Great Depression in Town and Country" (1970), readings on local history
* Szostak, Rick. "Technological Innovation and the Great Depression" (1995)
* Temin; Peter. "Did Monetary Forces Cause the Great Depression" (1976)
* Tindall George B. "The Emergence of the New South, 1915-1945" (1967). History of entire region by leading scholar
* Trout Charles H. "Boston, the Great Depression, and the New Deal" (1977)
* Warren, Harris Gaylord. "Herbert Hoover and the Great Depression" (1959).
* Watkins, T. H. "The Great Depression: America in the 1930s." (1993).
* Wecter, Dixon. "The Age of the Great Depression, 1929-1941." (1948)
* Wheeler, Mark ed. [ "The Economics of the Great Depression" (1998)]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Поможем написать реферат

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Great Depression in the United Kingdom — This article deals with the effects of the Great Depression of the 1930s also known as the Great Slump on the United Kingdom.BackgroundThe Great Depression of 1919 ndash;22 broke out at a time when Britain was still far from having recovered from …   Wikipedia

  • Economic history of the United States — The economic history of the United States has its roots in European settlements in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. The American colonies progressed from marginally successful colonial economies to a small, independent farming economy, which… …   Wikipedia

  • Loan modification in the United States — Loan modification, the systematic alteration of contactual mortgage loan agreements, has been practiced in the United States since the 1930s. During the Great Depression loan modification programs took place at the state level in an effort to… …   Wikipedia

  • Great Depression in the Netherlands — The Great Depression was a period of severe economic crisis in the 1930s which affected countries around the world, including the Netherlands (Dutch: De Grote Depressie, de Crisisjaren, de Crisistijd). In the United States the Stock Market Crash… …   Wikipedia

  • Prohibition in the United States — Detroit police inspecting equipment found in a clandestine underground brewery during the Prohibition era Prohibition in the United States (sometimes referred to as the Noble Experiment)[1] was a national ban on the sale, manufacture, and… …   Wikipedia

  • Outline of the United States — …   Wikipedia

  • Article One of the United States Constitution — United States of America This article is part of the series: United States Constitution Original text of the Constitution Preamble Articles of the Constitution I  …   Wikipedia

  • The Great Depression and the World Wars in Arizona — In 1912, women in Arizona gained the right to vote, and in 1917, World War I brought an economic boom to Arizona. It recovered from The Great Depression with the New Deal and another economic boom after World War II, leading the cotton, copper,… …   Wikipedia

  • Taxation history of the United States — The history of taxation in the United States began when it was composed of colonies ruled by the British Empire, French Empire, and Spanish Empire. After independence from Europe the United States collected poll taxes, tariffs, and excise taxes.… …   Wikipedia

  • Automotive industry in the United States — The American automobile industry began in the 1890s and rapidly evolved into the largest automotive producer in the world through the use of mass production. The United States was the world s leader amongst motor vehicles main manufacturers many… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”