The American Dole: Unemployment Relief and the Welfare State in the Great Depression

By Jeff Singleton | Go to book overview
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Table 6
Unemployment Rates: Estimates for 120 Urban Areas and Other National Estimates
Year 120 Urban Areas Lebergott NICB
1930 9.8% 8.9% 7.8%
1931 19.7% 16.3% 16.3%
1932 29.8% 24.1% 24.9%
1933 30.4% 25.2% 25.1%
1934 24.3% 22.0% 24.9%
1935 22.8% 20.3% 16.3%

the fact that the relief caseload increasingly absorbed people defined as "unemployable" in the mid-1930s. These included those who perhaps should have qualified for the "categorical" programs (mothers' aid, Old Age Assistance, etc.). In 1934 New Deal officials appear to have believed that approximately 20 percent of the caseload consisted of "unemployables," and the estimates of some social workers were even higher.

Table 6 compares unemployment rates derived from my estimates fox the 120 urban areas with those of Lebergott (the most widely cited estimates) and the the NICB. 4 The other estimates appear to be lower, in part, because they include agricultural employment, which declined at a much slower rate between 1930 and 1933.


NOTES
1.
Emma A. Winslow, Trends in Different Types of Public and Private Relief in Urban Areas, 1929-1935 (Children' Bureau Publication No. 237) ( Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1937), 2-3; Katherine Lenroot, "Government Provision for Social Work Statistics on a National Scale," Proceedings of the National Conference on Social Work ( Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1931), 415-418; Ralph Hurlin to Emma Winslow ( December 10, 1936), Children's Bureau Files, Box 821, File 12-8-1.
2.
For the "urban areas" and their population see Winslow, Trends in Different Types of Public Private Relief Urban Areas, 1929- 1935, 65-68.
3.
National Industrial Conference Board, Conference Board Economic Record ( March 20, 1940), 81-82. The procedure used here is similar to that used by the Conference Board in its annual unemployment estimates. See 89-92.
4.
Ibid., 84. Lebergott estimates as cited in Historical Statistics of the United States, Series D 1-10, 126. There were attempts to revise Lebergott's data in the 1970s to take into account the "discouraged worker" effect on the labor force and the impact of the New Deal's employment programs. The latter effort, in particular, created considerable controversy among scholars of American eco

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