How did the Great Depression affect California?

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Like all other parts of the United States, the Great Depression had a huge effect on California. In particular, thousands of midwestern farmers, fleeing the devastation of the Dust Bowl, fled to California. This had a profound impact on California and forever changed the culture of the state. Many short-lived...

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Like all other parts of the United States, the Great Depression had a huge effect on California. In particular, thousands of midwestern farmers, fleeing the devastation of the Dust Bowl, fled to California. This had a profound impact on California and forever changed the culture of the state. Many short-lived camps were set up by the state and the federal government to help settle these newcomers. However, they eventually integrated into California culture, lending it an "Okie" (Oklahoma) flavor.

Californian farmers were particularly hard-hit. Many had investments from local banks that folded, leaving them without their savings. Many other farms with large mortgages were foreclosed on by the banks. The same happened to many homeowners. By 1932, 28% of Californians were unemployed.

Tent cities, shantytowns, and "Hoovervilles" sprang up all over the state. One of the most infamous was the so-called Pipe City in Oakland. Homeless families moved into six-foot sections of concrete pipes. This makeshift neighborhood housed over two hundred individuals during the worst days of the Great Depression.

Xenophobia rose during the Great Depression. Many Californians looked for easy scapegoats. Filipinos and Mexicans in California were often blamed for taking the few remaining jobs away from white Californians. This led to anti-Filipino riots in San Francisco and San Jose, and to the deportation of as many as one hundred thousand Mexicans.

Ironically, not all of the Great Depression's impact on California was negative. Works projects under the New Deal led to the building of several large dams, which helped supply water and electricity to much of the state. The Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco–Oakland Bridge were popular work projects that resulted in many jobs in the Bay Area.

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