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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. I highly recommend two books on the Dust Bowl: The Worst Hard Time (Timothy Egan), and Whose Names are Unknown (Sanora Bobb). The former is history, and the second was written in 1939 but not published till 2006, and is a novel following a family somehow surviving through the worst of it. These books reveal the depth of despair and disaster that was compounded by the Great Depression, and though not ‘prepper books’, really get you to thinking. This was a long, strung-out disaster of vast proportions, and profoundly effected the rest of the country. The idea that living in the country will save you didn’t work for the Dust Bowl, and many a homestead was taken by banks who were also desparate. Not often discussed anymore, but lessons should be learned from it. Thanks, Gaye, for your work and persistence in getting the rest of us up to speed.

    • Long strung out disaster does not even half describe those Depression years. My parents were Depression teens. My Dad’s father just walked out the door one day and never returned, leaving his mother with three children, no job, and no money. Her solution was to leave with his younger sister and abandon Dad and his younger brother.

      The boys turned to their grandfather for help and were told they could stay in the farm barn but were not welcome in the farmhouse. Winter was coming, and the two boys nearly froze to death in that barn. They were not given any food, so just had to forage for whatever they could find or steal. (Historical note…..over two million women were deserted by their husbands during the Depression.) No, that number is not a typo. Two million women found themselves living that nightmare.

      This was in Pennsylvania. In the neighboring state of Michigan, my mother graduated from high school only to be told by her parents that she was now on her own and needed to find a job to support herself. However, in theIr small town there were no jobs.

      After a week of sleeping in doorways, she decided to travel to Detroit in hopes of finding work there. Back in Pennsylvania, my dad had made the same decision. So, that was where they met. Two lonely farm kids, in the big city.

      So, I grew up hearing their stories of the hardships of the Depression. There were parts of that which my dad never talked about. He just said there were some parts of life that were best forgotten. Much of what he did talk about was horrifying. How men fought like hungry wolves for the few available factory jobs. How he fought his way to the front of that mob and screamed at the hiring fireman that he would work for free for the first two weeks. The desperate offer worked. He got hired at a steel mill.

      Both my parents were emotionally scarred from living thru the Depression. They always said that it could happen again. Currently, I find myself thinking more and more that they were right about that.

  2. My parents grew up during the depression, they knew how to run a farm, fix machinery, sew, knit, crochet, can foods, butcher animals and many other skills. When I meet young people I ask them.”Do you want to sit in a Dilbert cube and push paper for a company that sees you as a dollar sign, or would you rather apprentice and learn a skill you can use forever to support yourself ?” The answer is usually a skill, however their parents want them to have a 4 year degree that is costlier than just going to work. Many self starters are out of debt and own a home by the time their counterparts are out of college. I am one of those people who succeeded without a four degree and retired at 51. Please impress upon the children to learn a skill they can develop into a business.

  3. One other thing for city dwellers. During the Depression, there were not millions of illegals, overstays and those on public assistance who are not emotionally invested in a middle class ethos. What will happen when public assistance runs out?

  4. I am one lucky girl to have been raised by parents that were teens/young adults during the GD. Mom told me fabulous stories about her mother sending boxes of home canned goods to neighbors in need as well as “feeding the neighborhood kids” that would show up at dinnertime. Grandma Jones made all their clothes….even the underwear. Mom’s dad gardened and worked a full-time job (that he never lost even in the depression). Mom came from a family of 9 kids. Imagine the work….yet Mom nor any of my wonderful aunts and uncles ever complained and all said they never even knew they were poor……probably because they were so rich in love.

  5. It is my belief that we are already in a modern day “depression”. What holds our collective economies up is the ever present borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. This is occurring nationally, internationally, personally. One day the musical chairs will stop.
    People are very poor now but they are quietly poor.. The day will come soon when they are not so quiet and much more poor.

  6. Yes, it is different this time. We are already in a long slow soft depression. Slowly circling the drain while politicians spew out lies about a fake economic recovery that has not happened. By contrast, the 1930s Depression was a sudden hard depression. If you want a marker for this new Greater Depression, it probably began with the housing bubble5 crash, followed by the stock market crash in 2008.

    Think I am wrong about this?? Ask yourself how many of the following visible signs are evident in your area.

    Potholes in the main roads that have been there for years. Would not take much to fix these. Why are they not being repaired??

    Neighbors who are doing yard sales every weekend in the warm weather months. Everything they have is out on the front lawn, including their boat, motorcycle, ATV, camper or RV, etc. All with for sale signs..Desperately trying to sell enough stuff to get thru one more month. Eventually, this effort will fail and they will move out of that house. Then the Bank Repo For Sale sign appears in their yard.

    A woman and her crying kids standing in front of the local grocery store trying to sell the family dog because they cannot afford to feed it, any more.

    The local library is filled with homeless men sleeping at the computer stations and/or panhandling library patrons.

    The church parking lots have designated a section of their parking lot for homeless families now reduced to living in their car/truck to park long term on church
    property. Local churches in town now offer free lunches or dinner to the homeless.

    Many local small businesses have closed. This means the shopping area has vacant storefronts with For Rent signs in the windows. No new stores are opening except pawn shops and thrift shops.

    The community food bank in your home town is open one day a week. They run out of food to distribute about an hour after they open up. And people start lining up to ask for food three hours before the doors open.

    Panhandlers are everywhere. They are even going door to door in residential neighborhoods.

    Banks are now limiting customers to no more than 1,000 dollars withdrawn from their accounts on a single day.

    All of this is ongoing in my town. Plus a lot more.

    Now. Ask yourself if any of this was happening ten years ago. No??? How about in previous recessions in past years. No, again.

    We are in deep trouble in America. Yes, there are some scattered places where people are still doing okay. But many other people are one missed pay check away from hard times.

    Imagine what it would be like if the government suddenly stopped paying out the entitlements AND if the Social Security and/or Disability checks stopped. At least half the country receives a government check of some kind. It would be a living nightmare.

    Every time I think about that, I break into a cold sweat. But I keep prepping. I am not giving up. Everything I do is focused on becoming more self reliant. I do think a financial collapse is most likely. But I have been thru worse stuff in life. Including a terrifying home invasion, and every kind of of weather-related event except a major flood. I have survived all that. I can cope with Depression conditions too. I will not like it, but I can do it. You can do it, too.

  7. I busted my tail since I was a child. I have paid off my 16 acres and my home is paid for. Until recently, we had 2 paid for vehicles- they died within a week of each other. I re-purpose everything I can and only when whatever it is, is absolutely dead, do I throw it away. I paid into the SS system for a lifetime. It is NOT a “gimmie”. I pay monthly for my Medicare in excess of 100.00. It is not a “gimmie” either, yet they want to take what little I have coming in or at the very least cut it down significantly. I barely make it now. If Congress would replace what they stole from the SS fund under the Bush Administration, Social Security would be solvent for generations

    I literally broke my back at work and have been on disability since 2000. I am considered a “taker” now because I get a check monthly. I am in a great deal of pain, but I still do what I can to tend my farmstock and have to ask for help (even though it galls me) quite frequently these days, and I rarely take pain meds. Yet, they want to take away what little I use.

    I have been of a Prepper mindset for all of my life, but it has only been on the last few years that I have done all I can to put every single can up for future. I am terrified that my children and grands (and 1 great grand) will not survive the wave to come. Make no mistake, it is coming.

    • Those, like you, who have paid into the system are not takers. The ones who have never worked and expect to be handed everything for free are. Take care and God bless

  8. Gaye, one of your best qualities is your realism and that comes across in the articles (like this one) you have on your blog. They are about real, down-to-earth, and more importantly “DO-ABLE” stuff anyone can choose to do. As an over-75 senior, there’s a lot I can’t physically or financially do anymore, but also much that I can do that will make a big difference in the times ahead of us.

    I read an article today that said “if you live in your head, reality always comes as a surprise.” The author called that being “cognitively stuck”. Which is different than cognitive dissonance. You help keep me from “living in my head” and looking at life as I wish it were, instead of how it really is. I may not like what is coming and I may not have all my ducks in a row before it arrives, but your blog really helps me keep the surprise factor to a minimum. Keep up the great work!

    • Thank you for the kind words.

      I have made no secret of the fact that maintaining this website has taken its toll on me personally. So has prepping which is a 24/7 activity. At this time of life, I yearn to sleep in late and not worry about deadlines, hosting issues, responding to email, and the need to stay on top of my social media accounts. In addition, I sometimes wish I could view life without seeing through glasses that tell me all is not right in the world.

      So once again, I thank you. Comments like yours keep me going.

  9. Your point #11 under how another Depression would be different is something that is constantly on my mind as we debate “welfare reform” in this country. I support programs that help the less fortunate and those who truly cannot help themselves. But I shudder what will happen if Government runs out of funding and absolutely MUST eliminate social welfare programs. Not only would those who TRULY are helpless be suffering in the streets. But all those who are generational welfare recipients who aren’t actually in need but who also haven’t learned a thing about self-sufficiency will revolt. If folks think that those who are scamming welfare programs are “takers” now, imagine what they’ll be like if their freebies MUST be cut off!

    • Like you, I totally support government programs that help the less fortunate and those who truly cannot help themselves. I also support helping the working poor and elderly or infirm who do the very best with what they have.

      Some of the nicest, most hardworking, and most giving people I know are what I would call poor. Although they receive assistance, they are the first to volunteer their time and skills when someone else is in need.

      The entitlement mentality is what I oppose. Alas, I am afraid that this mentality has become generational and is a way of life for many. These people are the future mobs and thugs that will come after our stuff. As I like to say, let us hope it does not get to that.

  10. I live in a suburban area and I want to move to the country with some land before the SHTF. I grew up poor and self-reliant. I feel I need to move my family back to the country and re-learn some of the self reliance I once thought was the norm.

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