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16 Reasons Why a Second Great Depression Will Be Different

Avatar for Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: July 3, 2019
16 Reasons Why a Second Great Depression Will Be Different

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It is no secret that prepper-types use the Great Depression as an example of what can and will happen when the stuff hits the fan.  We do this because the possibility of a national or even a global economic collapse is something we prepare for.

Learning about life during the Great Depression has its value and the lessons we can learn will go a long way in helping us formulate our own plan for survival under such dire economic circumstances. That being said, life in the 21st century is much different than it was during the thirties.

This makes it important to toss some modern realism into the mix.  Here are both reasons and facts why a second Great Depression will be different the next time around.

16 Reasons Why a Second Great Depression Will Be Different | Backdoor Survival

Reasons Why a Second Great Depression Will Be Different

The Second Great Depression, if there is one, will be much different than the depression my parents and grandparents experienced.  This is because both society and the world today are not the same as it was in 1929.

The most obvious reason is that we are now far more urban and less dependent upon the land for sustenance.  But that is just the tip of the iceberg.  Here are some additional reasons why the next Great Depression will be different.

1.  In 1930, 44% of the US population was rural.  By 2010, the rural population had dropped to 20%.  It is still dropping.

2.  Dependency upon the power grid was more moderate than it is today. Power outages were common so families knew how to get by in the dark using candles and oil lamps for light.  Many still cooked using a wood stove and had an icebox instead of a refrigerator.

3.  Technology as we know it today did not exist.  Communication was by mail, radio, and telephone.  Home computers, smartphones, texting, and email that are now a part of daily did not exist and did not distract us from the business of living.

4. People took responsibility for their actions and maintained a high moral compass. Most people practiced their religion and regularly went to their place of worship.

5. Being thrifty was a way of life.  Most people understood the value of having a budget and living within their means.

6.  People were neighborly and participated in potluck dinners and community social events on a regular basis.  They learned who to trust and who would watch their back if trouble came to town.

7.  Walking, bicycling, and public transportation was used to get from one place to another. There was not the current dependence on automobiles, and the associated cost of fuel, insurance, and maintenance.

8.  Wearing clothing and shoes until they were worn out was the norm.  If children outgrew their clothing, it was handed down to siblings or the neighbor’s children.

9.  People entertained themselves with card games, board games, puzzles, dancing, and other low-cost or no-cost activities.  Children played street games such as “kick the can“.

10.  Almost everyone had a skill of one type or another.  Cooking, sewing, and various home arts were common among the women.  Men could do plumbing and construction work, and the entire family tended the garden. Families from the oldest adults down to the youngest children did what they could themselves.  If outside workers were called in, it was often on a barter basis.

11. Government aid was considered shameful and avoided if at all possible.  Even then, reliance on government assistance was an embarrassment and a solution of the last resort.

12.  Children pitched in and helped in any way they could.  This was the norm and they did not feel put out when asked to do chores or take on odd jobs.

Relative to today, the following applies:

13. Today we are less dependent upon jobs in factories and on farms.  Most workers today sit in offices or perform some sort of service; they do not make “things”.

14.  Family farms have all but disappeared in favor of corporate farming conglomerates that not only control the food chain and related distribution systems but also grow unhealthy GMO crops and pesticide-ridden fruit, vegetables, and other food products.

15. The demographic of the middle class, or at least what is left off it, has drastically changed. With exponential increases in the cost of health care, housing, utilities, and food, more families than ever are barely getting by.

16.   Baby boomers are either in retirement or getting close, yet retirement savings is at an all-time low.  Within that segment alone, the “haves” spent their careers working for companies that had lucrative defined pensions.  And the rest?  They funded their own retirement through 401Ks, IRAs, and traditional savings. Those nest eggs have been stagnant for years as interest earnings have become all but non-existent.  Many retirees or would-be retirees are still working or living at poverty levels.

11 Facts About the Great Depression You Need to Know About

As you read and learn about the Great Depression, keep in mind that there are a number of facts from the depression era that warrant a second look.

1.  The Great Depression did not happen overnight.

2.  The media created panic and chaos with their sensationalized reports.

3.  Being poor was so common that being poor was considered “normal”.

4.  Hard work and an enterprising attitude made a bad situation tolerable.

5.  Investing time and energy in gardening and the raising of livestock (chickens and cows) had a huge payback in self-reliance.

6.  Canning and preserving food was important if you wanted food to eat year-round.

7.  The price of everything escalated on an almost daily basis.

8.  Lawlessness was rampant.  In addition to ruthless outlaws, neighbors stole from neighbors everything from food items to livestock to valuables such as jewelry and tools.

9.  In spite of everything, “Robin Hoods” emerged from unexpected places to help feed the people.

10.  Families learned to make do and to enjoy themselves with amusements and hobbies that took little or no money.

11.  And perhaps the biggest lesson, Use it up, Wear it out, Make do, or Do without!.

Although some may consider a few of these facts disputable, they are based on anecdotal evidence including the article below by Alice B. Yeager and the book, Growing Up in the Great Depression by Delores Mixer.

One more thing.  It is interesting to note that when the Great Depression began, the United States was the only industrialized country in the world without some form of unemployment insurance or social security. Did that make people of the era more self-reliant and self-sufficient?  That certainly is something to ponder think about.

The Great Depression: A Reminiscence

The following excerpt is from an article by Alice B. Yeager first published in Backwoods Home Magazine.

I was a girl of 8 when the stock market crashed in 1929. It was the Great Depression, and unless you were living during the Depression years, you can’t really understand how tough they were. Our parents knew, however, as they went about trying to raise families under the worst of economic circumstances.

The Great Depression didn’t happen overnight. There is no way you can select a certain day and say that’s when it began. It started coming on sometime during the late 1920s and lasted well into the 1930s. At its peak, approximately 25 percent of American workers were without jobs. Chaos reigned as banks and insurance companies failed. Worst of all, with no bank deposits federally insured, many people lost their savings unless they were among the first to draw their money out of the banks before they closed their doors.

Newspaper headlines didn’t help matters. In New York City and other hard-hit cities, some moneyed and distraught people were jumping from tall buildings and there was an endless list of businesses closing day by day putting more and more people out of work.

Even though my husband, James, and I were children, we were old enough to be aware of The Great Depression and the effect it had on our families and everyone around us. However, let me say from the outset that being in the same boat with many other Americans made it bearable.

We didn’t realize that we were poor as we were all trying to make ends meet and somehow survive.


You can read the of the article on the Backwoods Home Magazine website. Used with permission.

The Final Word

Will there be another Great Depression?  Your guess is as good as mine.  What I do know is I trust my eyes and ears more than the mainstream media.  In my neighborhood alone, most of my retired neighbors have mortgages.  The smart ones have plopped a for sale sign in front of their home and plan to move to a more affordable location. The rest continue to compare notes about mortgage rates while driving around in a newer model Lexus or Mercedes.

Frankly, it scares me that so many of my peers are so unprepared financially. If we do have another Great Depression, those of us that have reduced our debt load or are debt free will most likely have to defend what we own.  It will not be a pretty picture.

Let us all hope for a soft landing.


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Spotlight:  If you would like to read an informative as well as a charming and uplifting book about growing up during the Great Depression, I highly recommend Growing Up in the Great Depression by Delores Mixer.  The book is a testament to the all-American optimism and “can-do” spirit our country was built upon.

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Note:  Portions of this article were first published on this website in 2013.  This material has been updated and enhanced to include new information and facts.  

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23 Responses to “16 Reasons Why a Second Great Depression Will Be Different”

  1. Some of what you have written was true; other parts are untrue.

    1. The Great Depression did not happen overnight.

    True. The economy began worsening even before the stock market crash. The period of decline was from 1929 to 1933. There was significant recovery from ’33 to ’37 but a recession in ’37. By 1940, measures of production and business activity and even stock prices exceeded pre-1929 levels, but until WW II began there was high unemployment.

    2. The media created panic and chaos with their sensationalized reports.

    There is no basis for this claim. The media primarily published statements and press releases by leading Wall Street financiers as well as those of President Hoover. These were typically overly optimistic — remember the saying, “Prosperity is just around the corner?” and the song, “Happy Days are Here Again?” It wasn’t and they weren’t.

    3. Being poor was so common that being poor was considered “normal”.

    Generally true.

    4. Hard work and an enterprising attitude made a bad situation tolerable.

    For many people, this was not true. Tens of thousands of men left home or committed suicide because they were unable to provide for their families.

    5. Investing time and energy in gardening and the raising of livestock (chickens and cows) had a huge payback in self-reliance.

    In some cases. Actually, food prices fell dramatically during the Depression due to deflationary pressures.

    6. Canning and preserving food was important if you wanted food to eat year-round.

    True for some people.

    7. The price of everything escalated on an almost daily basis.

    Completely false. The prices fell on an almost daily basis. Those who had money did very well — their dollars could buy more and the cost of hiring cooks, maids, and other domestic workers plunged.

    8. Lawlessness was rampant. In addition to ruthless outlaws, neighbors stole from neighbors everything from food items to livestock to valuables such as jewelry and tools.

    False. Although it is counter-intuitive, crime tends to fall during times of economic hardship. The Depression was no exception. The only increases in crime were due to homeless people in “Hoovervilles” trespassing on public or private land, and increases in the crime of riding illegally on a freight train.

    9. In spite of everything, “Robin Hoods” emerged from unexpected places to help feed the people.

    Can you give any specific examples? I don’t know of any gangs of robbers who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor. The only thing that comes to mind involved some foreclosure auctions among farm families. What often happened is that all of a farm family’s friends and neighbors — perhaps as many as 100 people or more — came to the auction of their home and belongings and would bid a few cents for each item including the house and land. At the end of the auction, everyone donated their purchases back to the family. No one dared bid against them; had they tried, they literally would not have lived long enough to collect the items they bid on. Auctioneers were generally persuaded to ignore bids from individuals other than those buying on behalf of the victims of foreclosure. Despite what I said about crime in general, there were some cases of bidders, auctioneers, civil law enforcement officers, bank agents, and even a few foreclosure judges who “went missing.” And even though there were dozens of witnesses, no one saw a thing.

    10. Families learned to make do and to enjoy themselves with amusements and hobbies that took little or no money.


    11. And perhaps the biggest lesson, Use it up, Wear it out, Make do, or Do without!.

    Of course.

  2. Economist and historian Dr. Gary North commented on this article.
    He mostly agrees. Here are his caveats:




  4. Humans are resilient. They’re also not all irrational lunatics who would freak out and go running around marauding if SHTF. Many of the qualities of our ancestors who lived through the depression were born out of necessity. We will adapt to the new normal and find enrichment, and our next of kin will talk about how great we were. Yes, prepare for the worst. But hope for the best and try to enjoy everything we have before us in this moment. There would be nothing sadder than someone sitting around expecting and worrying about the next Depression for the rest of their lives, missing out on so much life has to offer, and it never happening.

  5. Re: second depression will be different…

    1. In 1945, when I was born, my folks lived in a typical two-bedroom tract home. They added on two additional bedrooms to accommodate our large family when I was five.

    2. I remember the “Ice Man” delivering a large block of ice in July. We kept milk in “the cooler” in the garage. The cooler operated on the principle of heat rising through a wooden grate and my Dad had built it at the coolest part of the house. Electricity was dependable in the 50’s.

    3. We didn’t have a telephone until I was 15, and only because my oldest brother worked for the phone company and it was “required.” It was 1952 when we bought our first TV. We had two stoves (four burners each and an oven each) because our family ate a LOT.

    4. We were taught to respect our elders…something I see as lacking in some of today’s youth. We weren’t to associate with “bad” kids. We all went to church EVERY week, without fail, unless we were deathly ill. We enjoyed good health, for the most part.

    5. Being part of a large family meant few “extras”. I had many a hand-me-down to wear.

    6. Mom played piano and we often (monthly) had the neighbors over for a “sing-along”, even though we had a TV.

    7. I shared a bicycle with my brothers and we’d go anywhere in town we wanted…even out to the airport to watch planes take off and land (few and far between).

    8. (see 5)

    9. We played in the backyard, in the street (with other kids), and had Monopoly and Clue and Whist and Go Fish and Old Maid card games. Dad made most of our other toys.

    10. We (boys) cut the neighbor’s yards year round and delivered newspapers. The girls did laundry for neighbors and babysat…sometimes, we helped clean houses. Dad could fix anything. He was out of work for an extended period and we ate mush for breakfast and lunch and (homemade) bread dipped in hot lard for dinner. We never went hungry, though we got “close.”

    11. Public assistance was for poor folks…not us.

    12. Every Saturday during the school year we had chores to do. The youngest polished shoes, slightly older ironed hankies, still older ironed shirts and blouses for Sunday, still older helped Mom with the wringer washer and hanging clothes on the lines outdoors, oldest were out cutting grass in front and backyard and for the neighbors.

    13. I grew up in town…only visited a “farm” a couple of times at grandpa’s place. Grandpa had chickens, rabbits, and a goat on his 5-acre holding. He also had fruit trees and a sizable garden and I “helped” Grandma. Had an uncle who had a henhouse too and learned to shoot a .22 there. Dad taught us to disassemble motors and such to recover brass bushings and copper wiring. I learned how to use tools. I made sidewalk “racers” using buggy wheels, wood, rope, nails and the occasional screw or bolt. I still make things.

    14. Mom taught me gardening, canning, soap making, and responsibility for family pets. I cared for mice, rats, snakes, lizards, dogs, cats, parakeets, canary, pigeon, guinea pig. We even raised parakeets to sell for a time.

    15. Today, health care coverage is a larger and larger part of my expense…more than food, more than transportation, and much more than property taxes and income taxes put together.

    16. I have no debt (other than perennial taxes). My nest egg is shrinking, but I’ve been poor before and know I can always get by. My greatest concern is that the government will seize all our assets and make us “dependent” on the government for our daily bread.


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