What consequences did the Great Depression have for ordinary Americans?

Expert Answers
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is dangerous to generalize about how the Great Depression affected all Americans.  There were many different kinds of experiences that were felt by various “ordinary Americans.”

Statistics tell us that unemployment rates were anywhere from 25% to 33% at the depths of the Depression.  This means that many ordinary Americans were without jobs.  These Americans sometimes experienced great hardships.  It was from among their ranks that the homeless who lived in Hoovervilles came.  The “Okies” and the hobos also came from the people who were unemployed.  For these people, the impact of the Depression was tremendous.  It ended up causing fewer people to get married and fewer people to have children.

But we must also realize that the majority of Americans still had jobs.  It is true that some of these were like one of my wife’s ancestors who had his hours cut in half.  His family experienced a great drop in their standard of living.  On the other hand, there were also many people like one of my ancestors who kept her job as a teacher throughout the Depression and did not suffer badly.

The Depression reduced the standard of living for a large percentage of Americans.  However, it did not reduce these standards equally for all people.  There was a great range of experience among “ordinary Americans” in the Great Depression.