During the early 1900’s, those who were living inside of the United States or those who migrated from elsewhere were determined and willing to work hard in order to pursue the American Dream. Those who weren’t very recognized but yet notably ambitious in achieving their dreams were Chinese workers that immigrated to California, middle class families in New York, and NYC entrepreneurs, who were all tirelessly aiming for a prosperous future. Unfortunately for them, the United States is about to be hit by a nationwide economic crisis known as the “Great Depression”, which would greatly impact the country, and would later pose as a tragedy for the three groups, as the Chinese Workers in the West Coast would firsthand experience repressive racial discrimination, middle class New Yorkers facing economic deprivation, and entrepreneurs having to deal with bankruptcy.
The Great Depression had a severe impact to Chinese workers because they became targets of oppressive discrimination.
Firstly, many Chinese workers were at risk for replacement, despite most were putting their utmost effort in their work and determined to stay in employment. “Chinese-Americans typically worked in low-paid, low-level jobs, but faced increasing pressure for these positions from white Americans laid off elsewhere.” Chinese workers passionate about their job would do what they’re asked, and fulfill their duties, but when they’re going to be replaced for a white American, there’s no doubt racial discrimination poses as a factor for their termination.
Furthermore, the harsh discrimination would be tougher for unemployed Chinese men to look for a job, especially in occupations pivotal to society such as farming. Some Americans that were against Chinese workers seeking a job in the Agriculture business were protesting to the government. “In some areas, white farmers actively campaigned against the employment of Asians”. Some Chinese men that moved to California could prove to be competent farmers. Farmers in China are renowned for being able to grow and harvest a variety of crops such as rice, wheat, and corn. However, the prior experience that they possess is considered inconsequential to American farmers, as their hostile behavior towards Chinese men wanting to become farmers in the new land suggest that regardless of their ability, they do not want them to be working in the fields simply because of their racial heritage.
Finally, the situation that the Chinese Americans found themselves in was made worse as the American people, afraid that they might take over jobs and the economy, assaulted the minority workers as charities refused to provide assistance for the unfortunate migrants. “Most of the helpful charities would refuse to help them and provide them with food. Violence grew against the minorities, as the white would take over their jobs.” The cruel treatment that the Chinese were subjected to clearly reveals just how unfair Americans were acting towards the Asians. They were attacked and deprived eligibility to receive human necessities as their jobs were forcefully taken away. The discrimination toward the Chinese workers only added to their burden, as the ill-willed whites made their lives all but convenient.
When the Great Depression affected the country’s economy in the 1930’s, it not only affected the Chinese in the west coast, but people in the east as well. Middle class families living in New York City were struggling to live after being hit with devastating financial problems.
Firstly, in the late 1920’s, middle class men were often able to maintain themselves and their family with a stable income, but would find themselves enduring money issues due to wage and salary cuts in the Great Depression. “The average income of the American family dropped by 40 percent from 1929 to 1932. Income fell from $2,300 to $1,500”. The reduced income has forced families to be evicted from their homes after not being able to pay rent, and those fortunate enough to keep their house still had to cut back on spending due to a drop in their paycheck.
Later, after thousands of families had lost their homes, many settled in various locations around New York, including iconic locations. “Thousands of homeless families camped out on the Great Lawn at Central Park in New York City”. The drastic effect the depression had on families left them no choice but to settle in one of New York’s most notable landmarks, which further reveals the overwhelming impact the economic crash had on New York’s middle class in the 1930’s.
Lastly, middle class families that were determined to make ends meet during the era of financial instability memorized and practiced a lifestyle technique that helps them minimize spending and fully utilize their household possessions in an effort to save money. “American families lived by the Depression-era motto ‘Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without’”. Use it up means don’t waste, wear it out means use it as much as you can, and make do or do without means if it’s not necessary, don’t spend money on it. Families, desperate to avoid eviction, resorted to this money saving strategy, which goes to show that the economic crisis having such a dramatic impact in family lifestyle reveals that life under the Great Depression is more difficult than most could have imagined.
New York City ran into chaos. Families were evicted out of their homes and were forced to settle elsewhere after they were laid off from their jobs, and even those with a prominent reputation, such as businessmen, also were unable to support themselves. They would run into crippling monetary issues as their businesses went bankrupt.
First of all, the majority of people were budgeting their money and limiting their spendings. They took every opportunity they could to save, which meant owners were struggling to maintain their business due to less paying customers, and some even went bankrupt. “During the Great Depression, when the nation’s gross [domestic product] dropped 33 percent, 25 percent of businessmen lost their jobs.” The nation’s economic performance dropped by a third, which meant there was less money employers could pay their workers with. As a result, Americans were not able to afford the services or products that businessmen were offering, which led to a loss of sales, ultimately leading to financial problems.
Furthermore, as sales declined, and income decreased, the entrepreneurs began paying their workers below minimum wage in an attempt to delay their inevitable downfall. However, the underpaid employees went on strike, which has caught the attention of the government, who in return imposed a new law that would further threaten business owners. “Fair Labor Standards Act was created to establish a minimum wage and a maximum number of hours in the work week for the entire country.” The Fair Labor Standards Act restored wages for workers, which significantly reduced profits for businesses. The accumulative financial problems would prove catastrophic to businessmen and greatly undermine their organization.
Last but not least, the majority of businesses all across New York and the rest of the country would subsequently collapse after the series of events that hindered their productivity and financial growth. “More than 32,000 other businesses went bankrupt and at least 5,000 banks failed.” The devastation that ensued during the 1930’s show that even those as compelling as businessmen were vulnerable. The entrepreneurs were overwhelmed by their substantial debt as their business went downhill. Plenty of efforts were made to keep their corporation alive, but they were doomed. The once vigorous and influential figures of capitalism had succumbed to the calamity of the Great Depression.
The Great Depression had a significant impact on the three groups alike. The Chinese workers, NYC businessmen and middle class families all had to find ways to adapt and deal with the economic struggle. Although the Depression has made a severe impact in their lives, and even if they had lost things that had importance to them: their jobs, businesses, and perhaps their family and their sense of optimism, it goes without saying that the majority of people that lived in the US floundered one way or another during this era of scorn and instability.