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We Are Not In A Depression

Updated on January 3, 2013

I’ve seen many comments lately, mostly by the younger generation, saying we are in a depression. We are not in a depression here in the United States, not even close; if we were most people today wouldn’t be able to get through it.

Some have said, “My medical benefits were cut” or “My unemployment ran out” or “My food stamps aren’t enough to feed my family.”

First of all those benefits you speak of were nonexistent during the “Great Depression.” Most government assistance we have today was created because of the depression. I’m not old enough to have lived through any of it but I can tell you what we have is only a recession. I did live through the recession of the 80’s and we aren’t even struggling as much as people were then… yet.

I’m no economist but lets compare how things were during the real depression and how things are today.

  • Banks Close Their Doors

Even if you had money in many cases you couldn’t get to it because the banks were failing. Many lost thousands of dollars and never trusted banks again.

A few years a go an elderly man here in my little town passed away. He left his home and land to the church next door. They bulldozed his house to make more parking and when they dug into the ground under his detached garage they found dozens of pickle jars full of silver dollars. He lived through the depression and didn’t trust banks so he buried his assets in the dirt where he knew he would be able to get to them. They stopped the bulldozer and had men with shovels carefully unearth the money. There was thousands of dollars worth of coins but they were worth even more because they were so old.


If you have money in the bank you most certainly can get to it. The FDIC protects you and your money. See link below.

  • Weather

A major cause of the depression in the United States was due to a wide spread drought that lasted almost a decade. A good portion of the south and Midwest were farmers and depended on rain to grow crops not only to feed their own family but the rest of the country as well.


Even though we have seen severe weather that has broken records we still get appreciable rain amounts (unless you live in the desert) and people can grow gardens in their backyards, terraces and balconies to supplement their grocery bill.

Unfortunately, many Americans do not know how to cook food from basic ingredients and rely on convenience foods and restaurants to eat. Making food at home saves a lot of money. Some states have initiated cooking schools for low-income families that need these basic skills to survive.

  • Child Labor Laws

There were no laws to protect children from working long hours or age limits of when a child could start work. Many quit school in the third grade to find employment to help buy food. Only the wealthy continued their education and went on to high school.


Most American children don’t even clean their own rooms much less do any real work.

  • Minimum Wage

The government didn’t have a set amount that was fair to start an employee so employers could pay you as little as they wanted to, usually by the job or the day instead of by the hour. Since jobs were scarce a man would take anything he could get and didn’t squabble over how much he was paid; he was just proud to have a job.

Minimum wage was created in 1938 at a rate of twenty-five cents an hour.


We have labor laws, minimum wage and over time regulations to protect workers from mistreatment.

  • Welfare

There was none. In the 1800’s the government started a pension plan for low-income veterans but until the Great Depression there was no system in place to give poor people money. If you needed income you figured it out on your own by doing whatever work you could find. There was no hand out.


Depending upon your state there are programs in place to help needy families until they can find employment. They are intended to be temporary until a person can get on their feet; not a permanent income.

  • Food Stamps or Cards

No such thing. If you were hungry and didn’t have any food you stood in very long soup kitchen lines hoping and praying they didn’t run out before you and your kids got there. What they offered was a very watery substance that barely qualified as soup and hard tack (a tough biscuit). If you found a piece of turnip or other vegetable in your bowl you considered yourself lucky; meat was too expensive. Remember most of America was a dust storm and nothing would grow so that meant a lot of starving people.

Country people were in worse shape living off whatever they could find in the country. Often living on weeds, wild nuts and berries. Many people starved or got rickets from malnutrition.

People make fun of some countries for eating cats and dogs but, during the Great Depression people ate whatever they could get their hands on including pets, rats, squirrels, raccoons, armadillos, pigeons or whatever. Having an animal was a luxury most could not afford. Most pets starved to death or were killed.

Some resorted to theft. If a neighbor had chickens they had to keep a close watch on them because if they didn’t they would disappear.


Our kids are far from starving: many are obese along with their parents. I bet you had to look up rickets to even see what it was.

  • Medical Benefits

Again, there wasn’t any government health insurance for the poor. I recently read a young woman’s lament at having her medical benefits reduced and not getting proper dental care. During the Great Depression dental care was a pair of pliers used by a brave family member. If you had a bad tooth, it came out. Yes, there were a lot of toothless people back then.

Doctors made house calls and they didn’t go in the poor district or shantytowns because they knew those people didn’t have any money. Many died due to the lack of care.

After the Great Depression health care benefits and laws were created to protect citizens.


You can go to any hospital and get care whether or not you have money or insurance if it is an emergency. They will set broke bones, sew up wounds and deliver babies. Any non-emergency medical needs may not be addressed depending on where you live. This is part of why Obama is creating a health care program. I won’t get into the politics or whether I agree with it or not. I will say that something needs to be done because we have clinics going bankrupt due to helping the poor.

  • Unemployment Benefits

None. The unemployment rate was a fourth of the workforce in America. You have to understand when we give numbers these days we include women. During the Great Depression most women didn’t work so they weren’t counted in the jobless rates.


You can get unemployment benefits for a specified length of time. It isn’t indefinite and you are expected to find further employment but at least you can get help for a while after losing your job. Some people don’t know they will be laid off or fired until the moment it happens so they have no way of preparing. Receiving benefits enables you to have income while you make other arrangements. It was never meant to be a permanent source of income.

  • Shanty Town

Many found themselves without a place to live and no money to pay rent so they built make shift structures out of whatever materials they could find often living next to a dump.


While I won’t say we don’t have shantytowns we have other resources and options that were not available during the Great Depression. The Housing and Urban development helps people get housing at a reduced rate that is affordable to them. Families with children take precedence to insure our young ones have a safe environment in which to grow up.

  • Abandoned Wives and Families

Thousands of men left their wives to look for work and were never heard from again. Many committed suicide from the guilt of leaving their families to fend for themselves and not finding work to help them.

There was no birth control so families were quite large back then.


We have many single mothers raising kids but most is by choice and not from abandonment.There are benefits in place to help low income families with children and laws to make fathers pay child support. These programs were not available to women in the 30's.

Birth control is available so a woman can decide when and how many children she has.


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    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma

      HSchneider, I don't think kids are getting the full story in school these days and have no idea what it would be like to truly go through a depression. Our programs need work but without them we would have a serious problem.

    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 

      6 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Great Hub, Pamela. Many in the younger generation of no sense of history. The social safety net created after the Great Depression along with Keynesian economics that increase government spending have greatly mitigated the effects of this severe recession. I must say that without these changes we probably would be in a depression that would last for years.

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma

      Thanks for reading, Jillian. I've enjoyed your writing as well.

    • Jillian Barclay profile image

      Donna Lichtenfels 

      7 years ago from California, USA

      Second article that I have read and I really like this! I remember talking to my grandmother, born in 1908 talk about the depression. We are not even close! You are right! Can't wait to read more of your articles.

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma

      Danette, these are bad times, I don't mean to deny that, I just wanted people to realize the difference between a real depression and a recession which is what we have today.

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 

      7 years ago from Illinois

      Very interesting comparisons between the depression and today. I've read with interest all the comments and regardless of whether today is worse or not, or if we can call it a depression or not, one thing that has come across loud and clear to me and that is that people are scared. This country is going through a lot of rapid changes - good and bad - and change is frightening to most people because it is the unknown.

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma

      Don, without these programs things would indeed be worse but I still doubt they would be as bad. Banks aren't closing and the weather is still permitting people to grow their own food.

      During the 90's things were pretty good but you were probably still in school.

      Last year was a good year to buy a house with the stimulus money.

    • DonDWest profile image


      7 years ago from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

      "They bulldozed his house to make more parking and when they dug into the ground under his detached garage they found dozens of pickle jars full of silver dollars. He lived through the depression and didn’t trust banks so he buried his assets in the dirt where he knew he would be able to get to them."

      I guess it's too late to admit I'm doing that. . .

      As for the "younger generation", if you were born in 1981, such as I, you may be a tad cynical as well. It's simply a matter of perspective. I came of adult working age during the 2001 recession. Now I'm experiencing the 2008 recession followed by the 2012 double dip recession. I certainly didn't feel the breathing room in the mid 2000's because I was struggling just starting many jobs. I couldn't find work and hard to sustain myself with many tiny micro-businesses with almost no starting capita. I've known nothing but down, down, down, and we haven't near hit bottom yet.

      I'm turning 30 this year. Contrast that to my father (a baby boomer) who had a nice house, kids, car, etc in his early 20's. He also didn't have to compete with China at 0.50 an hour and could support a home with one income. For over 10 years and my entire adult life, I've never seen a booming economy. I don't know what it looks like. I imagine these young people are comparing themselves to their parents around the same age, not so much their great grandparents.

      If those welfare programs were removed, I wonder if the effects would be a little more visable. I've always maintained a lot of these programs are band-aid solutions.

      And at least their great parents while poor, were free. I didn't fall into the trap, but going tens of thousands into debt for school in this economy is scary to say the least.

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma

      Ella_Bella times are indeed tough. I agree that the middle class are struggling along with the poor but so far it is still just a recession.

    • Ella_Bella profile image


      7 years ago from CANADA eh

      As a child of immigrants, my parents have seen war and what would be constituted a real depression, and by no means in comparrison are we on that level, yet. However, times are tough and it is fair to say that its no longer the poor who are just struggling its the middle class too, and for many this notion is scary. Although initiatives after the Great Depression were instilled to ensure nothing of such severity happened again, look at things this way. That was a time when ONE person could work to feed their family. Today even though we have all these protective laws that many are looking to erode or invest lest capital in these programs, we have families with EVERYONE working and not being able to make ends meet.

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma

      Chris, times are very different today than they were 70 years a go. We have more today so when those things disappear we feel deprived even if they aren't necessary for survival.

      I hope we never have war in our home country.

    • CHRIS57 profile image


      7 years ago from Northern Germany

      Well analyzed, my compliments Pam.

      I would say that America has an additional problem. The US never faced a really lifethreating situation. Even the Black Friday time cannot be compared to war times. The last war on American soil was the Civil War.

      There is no culture of austerity, of living of what was earned and preserved and not of what was borrowed.

      How can people compare if comparison standards are somewhat missing?

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma

      Crystolite, I agree. Times are tough but not as bad as they could be.

      Thanks, Wesman.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Very impressive Hub.

    • crystolite profile image


      7 years ago from Houston TX

      Those who comment that We are in a Depression see far off what tomorrow is all about.

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma

      Chefsref, as long as we have rain people can still feed themselves. The stock market is still holding steady, I know my husband day trades, and as long as that is doing well we will continue to improve.

      They do need to make sure there isn't any abuse to the system so that people who are able to work are not draining from the real needy.

      At least those guys in furry suits have jobs. It may not be paying much but they get minimum wage which is more than men got in the depression.

      Shakespearefan2, thanks for reading.

    • Shakespearefan2 profile image


      7 years ago

      I disagree (we are in a depression) and I might write my own Hub page on the reason why. It might take me a while so bear with me.

    • chefsref profile image

      Lee Raynor 

      7 years ago from Citra Florida

      The entire reason this is not a recession is the list of benefits that were enacted after the Great Depression. Although you are correct this is not a depression there are many politicians working to eliminate the very benefits that many are relying on now. I drove to town recently and say 4 people begging for money and 3 dressed like furry animals waving signs. This is not too far away from a depression, all depends on who we elect. Right now in Wisconsin the governor is trying to eliminate collective bargaining. I don't want my future to be determined without a voice

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma

      Wildiris, yes we are in a recession but it is not any worse than the one in the 80's in fact I believe that one was worse.

      We had gas shortages with cars lined up at the pump paying very high prices and the stock market was in much worse shape. I don't see any of that yet.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      While we may not be in a depression such as the one Americans experienced in the 1930s, we are in a recession unlike any America has ever experienced. Mentalist acer made a valid point. Many of the programs you describe, and put in place by FDR, the right in the U.S. would like to dismantle with a short sided vision of the the future. OK, take those programs away, then what?

      I think you miss the point of the young in this country and the world for that matter. Many young people see no hope. At one time in the not so distant past a college education meant something more than debt. A college education meant hope for a better future. When hope is taken away there is not future to work for.

      This is a great Hub. I agree with diogenes, you hit on a sensitive and timely topic. Thumbs up!

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma

      Thanks for reading, imranhaider.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      nice work

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma

      Thanks, A.A. Times are certainly difficult and I don't mean to make light of it but just wanted some to understand that it isn't a depression.

    • A.A. Zavala profile image

      Augustine A Zavala 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Fascinating and informative hub. Times are difficult for the unemployed and for those in need, but they can be worse. I'm thankful to be employed and educated, and hope to do better for myself in the future. The U.S. was an economic powerhouse, and I hope we can get back there and demonstrate that we're not lazy and anad are self sufficient. Thank you for sharing.

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma

      Pamela, it was hard for me to witness the degree of abuse our programs have. I think now is a good time to make serious changes.

      Diogenes I'm sure we have children that go hungry but not to the extent we had during the depression. Nothing against well fed people but I don't see anyone in the condition our ancestors were in.

      We do need to make some big changes. Hopefully our officials will make the right ones.

      Thanks for reading.

    • diogenes profile image


      7 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hello Pamela. One can see from the amount of comments you have received from this recent article how interesting and sensitive the subject is to middle America. I was interested to see your details on the Great Depression; it sounds like what Germany went through towards the end of WW2. Politicians are putting a brave face for the electorate in the USA and the UK, but I sense we are hovering over a world-wide disaster at present with badly managed mega-populations and limited resources. Time to grab the cheeks and pray maybe? Thanks for your interest in my hubs, I will happily do likewise after reading this hub and forgiving you for the one no fattie wants to hear on dieting. I suppose a bit of good old famine might be healthy for us!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      This is an excellent hub and I think you are right that young people today have no idea what it was like to live through the Great Depression. We need to quit whining, work together and come up with some solutions save this nation. I see couples living together, having babies and not marrying so that the woman can stay on food stamps, even though the father of the babies is working. This type of behavior has. Medicare fraud needs to stop. There are people having a hard time right now, losing homes and jobs, yet we are still better off than the people were in the 1920s.

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma

      Thanks, Glenn. I think many people would be in dire straits if we were in a depression because like you say they rely so much on convenience foods.

      Times are hard but at least we still have services and plenty of food.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 

      7 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Very good work Pamela. You've done a bang-up job researching for this hub and I've learned a lot from it. Many people growing up today don't know what the 'real' depression was like. Luckily I missed it too.

      You made a good point that people today don't know how to make a living for themselves. That's what I got from your examples and you are so right. I have a friend who can't even make a sandwich for himself for lunch. He has to go out and order one from a deli, costing him a lot more than if he made it himself with ingredients from a supermarket.

      Awesome hub. I voted up.

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma

      Anginwu, I think people need to realize how bad it was and realize how thankful we are even thought these seem like tough times.

      Mindy, the documentaries I have seen said that everyone around them was poor so they didn't have anything to compare it to. They didn't have television to show people with more money doing better so they were happy. They had a sense of community we don't have today.

      The people that are still alive today were children during the depression. I suspect the people who were adults in the 30's who have passed away would have had a different perspective of the time.

    • mindyjgirl profile image

      Mindy Bench 

      7 years ago from Oregon

      Loved It! I work in a senior living center and I hear these stories first hand, many worked all day just to get one chicken to eat for their family or less. Many didn't wear shoes. Some left their families and hopped on trains to go get work. Strangely some still say they enjoyed their childhood, even in the depression they survived and were happy with nothing. Inspiring

    • anglnwu profile image


      7 years ago

      I've heard horrible things about the depression. You made good comparisons between a real depression and what we think is a depression. Nicely done.

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma

      If they put as much effort into a career as they do milking the system they would be successful.

    • WillStarr profile image


      7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona


      Buy food with stamps and load it all up the trunk of a welfare Cadillac. I used to see it all the time.

      Years ago, I ran a weatherizing crew and you should have seen some of the 'needy' people. They lived on welfare, unemployment, food stamps, and milking the system. They went out of their way to avoid getting a job.

      I used to offer some of them who knew a trade jobs on my crew and they just laughed.

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma

      Will, I saw women come in with manicures, pedicures and hair extensions driving Lincoln Navigators and getting assistance while some of our own employees struggled to make ends meet. It needs serious reform. There are people who really need it but too many that take advantage.

      It ain't perfect but it's better than a lot of other countries and it's home.

    • WillStarr profile image


      7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Excellent Hub Pamela, and like you, I once worked on a social program. It was quite a wakeup call, because a large majority of those I aided were simply lazy, immoral louts who liked to 'live out of the mailbox' as they put it.

      We're broke, both as states and as a nation, so we need Americans to stop complaining about the wonderful country they live in and pitch in to help save her.

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma

      Mckbirdbks, things are not good but still not a depression. At least those people didn't lose their life savings when those banks closed.

      Case1worker, I agree, they would much rather be in our times because at least they could grow food in their backyards as well as many other things we have to be thankful for.

    • CASE1WORKER profile image


      7 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

      i think this is a realistic article. Those who lived in the depression would welcome living in our recession

    • mckbirdbks profile image


      7 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      157 banks failed in 2010, 140 in 2009, 22 so far this year. There are tent and tarp cities on the outskirts of many many towns and cities. The political class is selling off state government buildings- (both Arizona and now WI) to scrape together cash. Chicago sold the cash flow stream of their parking meters for 'cash now' fix. (Where do hired politicians get off selling property that taxpayers purchased?) The corporations have bypassed child labor laws by sending the jobs to China where the population will work for $0.50 a day. The Federal Reserve is papering over one problem after the next, by printing money - to the detriment of your savings, ie debasing the dollar. Recession or Depression is seperated by a thin line. The Federal Government operates on borrowed money, most every state operates in the red and many cities are on the brink of default. The Treasury has borrowed money to bailout European bankers.

      Good Hub.

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma

      Thanks, dtchosen.

    • dtchosen profile image


      7 years ago from Dumaguete City, Philippines

      Nice and well reasoned hub.. tnx:)

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 

      7 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      And sorry for dragging this out: so brilliantly done with compassion and clear reasoning.

      I'm glad I'm following you!

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma

      Thanks, Twilight. There are a few good videos over on YouTube. I liked the pictures in this one and felt it showed the disparity and terrible conditions many lived in.

      Instead of making it an all out history lesson I just broke down the differences between how things are today compared to the 30's.

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 

      7 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      Pamela, I don't like your hubs; I LOVE THEM. You say what has to be said, eloquently and with feeling, but you bring it down to the bare bones.

      The video was harrowing... why did you avoid using, 'Buddy Can You Spare A Dime?' or would that be too obvious?

      Marked UP, USEFUL and AWESOME.

    • Pamela N Red profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela N Red 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma

      Mentalist, I have mixed feelings about the benefits we have. Many of the programs are very important to make sure our poor are taken care of but after being a social worker I see so much abuse and overuse that needs to be changed.

      RTalloni, feel free to link my hub. Thank you for reading. We have it great compared to our ancestors but our younger generation don't realize how good they have it.

      Computer Guy, I've seen elderly people that hoarded unnecessary things because they lived through a time when they went without.

      There are countries that have a depressed economy but the United States is far from being there. I agree, they should visit those countries and then they would appreciate what they do have.

    • Computer Guy profile image

      Computer Guy 

      7 years ago from Indianapolis IN

      You make a very good point. People now a days don't understand what a depression is. The younger generation that you speak of should travel to a couple of different countries and see how they have to live every single day of there life. great story

    • RTalloni profile image


      7 years ago from the short journey

      Excellent hub. I hope this hub will be highlighted many times over via your comment section. Also that you can elaborate on its different facets in future hubs. Voted up!

      Someone recently left a comment on one of my hubs re the concept of how we are often not grateful for what we have until it is gone. I am afraid it may take loss to wake us up as a nation. If you do not mind I would like to link this hub to my Cultivating Gratitude hub. Please let me know if you have any objection.

    • Mentalist acer profile image

      Mentalist acer 

      7 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

      The problem is that the people who are in the top five percent of income,with 95 percent of power think of these programs as needless expenditures and polititions are only worried about the big-money intrests that contribute to their election campaigns.;)


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