It is hard to read the news without encountering a comparison of the recent economic downturn and the Great Depression. I didn't live through the 1930s, but my parents and grandparents did. There is not one of the comparisons about the present economy that bears even the slightest shadow of resemblance to the Great Depression. I have written about this topic before, but it bears repeating.
In the 1930s the life expectancy of the average male was 58.1 years and female was 61.6. Today, the average life expectancy is around 75.2 years for males and 80.4 years for females. The average salary in the 1930s was around $1,368 dollars a year. In 2009 dollars that salary is about $17,296 a year. In 2007, the median annual household income was $50,233. In the 1930s on an annual income of roughly $1000, most families had between $20 and $30 a week for food, clothing and shelter. That same $20 in 1930 translates to about $250 a week in 2009.
Before we start wringing our hands about the economy, think about all the things you couldn't buy in 1930; computers, CDs, DVDs, cell phones, home air conditioning, household refrigerators, digital cameras, the Internet and on and on an on.
I need only mention segregation, lack of education, the fact that a huge percentage of the U.S. population lived on farms and any of a hundred or thousand other changes in our society, to show that there is no way that conditions are even faintly comparable to today to the 1930s.
Will the economic downturn have an effect on our lives and our society? Yes, of course, but lets not get carried away thinking we are in any way comparable to the suffering and deplorable conditions that existed in the 1930s.