Posts Tagged ‘depression’

Missing Tramps

One image of the Great Depression was of the tramps, the hobos drifting from town to town. Folk singer Woody Guthrie sang many a lyric on the theme, such as “the highway that’s our home / It’s a never-ending highway / For a dust bowl refugee.” And: “Go to sleep you weary hobo / Let the towns drift slowly by / Can’t you hear the steel rails hummin’ / That’s the hobo’s lullaby.” Also: “By the relief office I seen my people / As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking / Is this land made for you and me?” Steinbeck’s classic Grapes of Wrath(1939; movie directed by John Ford, 1940) was, of course, about a hobo-ing family, the Joads.

Dorothea Lange 1936 LC-DIG-fsa-8b29930

But tramping was not unique to the Great Depression. It typically appeared during every major American depression and financial panic. Millions, mainly men, displaced from economically busted or drought-blasted farms, or laid off at the mills, mines, or major ports, hit the road and rails looking for work.

Now, here we are in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Where are the tramps of the Great Recession?


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Depressing Comparisons

An August post on a sociology blog began, “For the last several decades, depression rates have been on the rise at a rapid pace.”

Source: Andrew Mason via flickr

That assertion has appeared in many places over recent years. The blogger provided no reference for the assertion. I think I know the initial source of the claim; most writers who declare that depression has been rising probably read it in – of course – The New York Times.

Research indicates, however, that there was no rise in depression rates over the last several decades. The key studies relied on for the claim that depression rose had one or more important  flaws. Understanding those flaws helps us understand the difficulties of discovering and making historical claims.


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