The Dust Bowl’s Effect on the Economy of the 1930s

May 9, 2018
By Gili Krasner-Cohen BRONZE, Randolph, New Jersey
Gili Krasner-Cohen BRONZE, Randolph, New Jersey
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Farming and crop production has been the support system for economies throughout history. Many nations globally have been able to thrive due to the product(s) grown within the country. Without these essential resources, entire populations would suffer.  This shows how essential crops and farms are, and how they not only feed individuals but also allow for the services within communities to run freely and efficiently. Limited production of crops is usually caused by natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, or droughts. An example of a time this happened was during the early 1930s. This event was called, The Dust Bowl. The Dust Bowl was a sizeable drought that destroyed the agriculture of the Midwest United States. According to credible sources, The Dust Bowl was a catastrophic event in American history that led many people into economic turmoil.


The migration of humans following the Dust Bowl was different from other migrations due to the influx of dust that rained upon the Midwest. This caused many people to be forced out of their homes during this challenging time, due to the harsh conditions. Ultimately many abandoned their homes, farms, and businesses and relocated. This is explored in, “Small Farms, Externalities, and the Dust Bowl of the 1930s” a journal written by Zeynep K Hansen and Gary D. Libecap with the quote, “farms are so small that the establishment of a system of farming that will conserve soil and produce a desirable family income is practically impossible” (Hansen, Libecap 674). This quote explores how difficult making a substantial amount of money in farming is, and tons of dust does not improve this issue ultimately forcing people to find new homes and occupations. The people of the Midwest during this time were extremely distressed like other disasters in the past. This is also shown in, “Moving to Higher Ground: Migration Response to Natural Disasters in the Early Twentieth Century,” a journal by Leah Platt with the quote, “migration away from tornado struck areas is consistent with Hornbeck (forthcoming) which documents out migration from the Dust Bowl in the mid-1930s” (Platt, 238). Although tornadoes do cause mass destruction, the destruction that the dust caused was unparalleled to those of other disasters. Families were homeless for months to even years at a time. Not only this but farms were also unable to operate which ultimately caused individuals and families in large numbers to move to alternate locations. This movement of people changed millions of lives drastically usually for the worst.


Furthermore, the lack of crops caused by copious amounts of dust was an issue regarding hunger of millions of Americans. Hunger was a large issue because without food people were unable to function effectively and be a valuable member of society. The ineffectiveness created by the lack of food was an issue regarding the stability of the United States following the dust storms. This issue is explored in, “The Lessons of the Dust Bowl: Several Decades before the Current Concern with Environmental Problems, Dust Storms Ravaged the Great Plains, and the Threat of More Dust Storms Still Hangs over Us,” a journal by William Lockeretz with the quote, “The economic and social consequences of the dust storms aggravated by two other problems, drought and depression that made recovery more difficult” (Lockerz 560). This depression that was caused by the drought was not helped by the fact that people were starving.  Many attempts were made to assist farmers and the hungry people, but most were unsuccessful. The failure that occurred is explained in, "The Enduring Impact of the American Dust Bowl: Short- and Long-Run Adjustments to Environmental Catastrophe" a journal by, Richard Hornbeck with the quote, “National agricultural policies attempted to reduce production of certain crops and animal products, though the initial motivation was to raise prices increase farm income and stimulate depression economy” (Hornbeck 1492). This is one example of failure as there were many more during this time. This goes to show how big of an issue hunger is, especially after natural disasters such as dust storms or in this case many dust storms. Overall, hunger had an extremely negative effect on the United States.


Lastly, and possibly most importantly, the Dust Bowl was one of the major causes of the Great Depression. The Great Depression was the time from 1929 to 1939 where many people were not in an economically sound state. This period was an economic disaster caused by many different things including the Dust Bowl. One may even argue that the Dust Bowl was the most influential aspect of the Great Depression. This is supported in, “Small Farms, Externalities, and the Dust Bowl of the 1930s” a journal written by Zeynep K Hansen and Gary D. Libecap with the quote, “We concentrate on the downwind externalities from a farmer’s failure to shield cultivated ?elds. Blowing sand from an unprotected farm smothered the lands and crops of leeward farms, lowering their productivity and reducing returns from their erosion control investments” (Hansen Libecap 667). This shows how the farmers could have tried to protect their crops but did not. This failure ultimately led to the government being forced to pay billions of dollars to assist those farmers and people of the Midwest. The amount of money used is explored in, “Drought Basics,” a webpage by The National Drought Mitigation Center with the quote, “assistance may have reached 1 billion dollars (in 1930 dollars) by the end of the drought” (Par. 2). This money that was given to help the recovery was coming from taxpayer’s dollars which many did not have, due to the monetary crisis. This just goes to show how all the people in the United States we're influenced by the Dust Bowl ultimately destroying the economy.


Unfortunately, the dust created by these storms impacted millions of people nationally. The Dust Bowl changed the environment for the worst and impacted the economy drastically.  Furthermore, billions of dollars were lost during and after the Dust Bowl. Everyone had to come together to help the recovery; and now 80 years later Americans must ensure that they are careful regarding decisions that they make while farming and working with agriculture. This will ensure a drastic even such as this does not happen again. Overall, natural disasters hurt the economy and the created distress for the affected, ultimately forcing individuals to change their lifestyle, sometimes even for good.


The author's comments:

This is an informational paper that I thought would teach people some things about the Dust Bowl.


Similar Articles

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

This article has 0 comments.


GILAD said...
on May. 14 at 5:40 pm
This was possibly the worst piece of literature that I have ever read, if you can call it literature. Why are you even alive?

G203? said...
on May. 14 at 5:37 pm
The writing is not bad but I can’t get Oder the defective hook.


Parkland Book