What was the Great Depression and what impact did it make on the lives of Americans?
The Great Depression was very devastating to the American people, including the wealthy and poor alike. It began when the stock market crashed in October of 1929 (Black Tuesday). Because of this, stockholders lost billions of dollars very quickly. Over the next decade, thousands of banks also failed for several reasons. To begin with, people lost their savings because deposits in these banks were uninsured. The banks that were lucky enough to keep their doors open were much more strict on who they did business with. Basically, many people were left with little to no money. They were very fearful of the future and drastically reduced their spending which led in turn to a series of events. First of all, there was a reduction in items purchased so fewer items were being made and this led to a reduction of workforce. Unemployment rates rose drastically.
One of the most important impacts of the Depression on the lives of average Americans had to do with the impact on families. We only think about the Depression in terms of money and jobs, not in terms of people's actual everyday lives.
For example, many fewer people got married during the Depression. They clearly were worried about their ability to support families and so were not able to create new families as much as they had before. Similarly, people had fewer children, presumably because they could not afford them.
In this way, the Depression really hit at the heart of people's lives -- the family. This is an aspect of the Depression that we do not think about as much as perhaps we should.
The worst part of the Great Depression must have been the demoralization of the family unit, and the lack of trust that the people must have had in their government. Imagine feeling as if you were living in a place no different than a third world country with the exception that it is starvation, desolation, hopelessness and poverty what you have to battle with everyday of your life.
Also, the life in the country was even more chaotic. With the market crashing, there was no chance for agriculture to sell its products to anybody. It was a sad period in American history during a time where we were still building up to what ultimately would have been known as the paradigm of the American Dream.
Many men had to leave their families during the Great Depression in the struggle to survive; families were broken sometimes irretrievably. One tremendous effect that the depression had was that many young people who went through such a depression never forgot it and continued all their lives to be very conservative.