The Burden of Unemployment: A Study of Unemployment Relief Measures in Fifteen American Cities, 1921-22

The Burden of Unemployment: A Study of Unemployment Relief Measures in Fifteen American Cities, 1921-22

The Burden of Unemployment: A Study of Unemployment Relief Measures in Fifteen American Cities, 1921-22

The Burden of Unemployment: A Study of Unemployment Relief Measures in Fifteen American Cities, 1921-22

Excerpt

The prevention of unemployment would seem to be a matter exceeding the power not only of a single firm, industry, or group of industries, but even of all industries--unless, indeed, transportation, agriculture, banking, finance, and international relations are included in our concept of industry. At any rate, whether or not the phenomenon of unemployment can be prevented, minimized, or quickly conquered by statesmanlike means, there remains for the present, and probably for years to come, the question of what to do with the distress caused by unemployment--family disintegration and the manifold other miseries which lack of work creates--and how the community is to bear the burden imposed upon it. It is to this question, and particularly to the meaning of unemployment for the individual community, that, within the limits of time and space set for the present study, these pages are addressed. They do not attempt to deal with larger aspects of the philosophy of industrial life, or with such matters as unemployment insurance, pensions, and similar proposals.

In the autumn of 1921, as a second consecutive winter of unemployment seemed imminent, many American cities felt the increasing need for organized effort to meet the emergency. Past experience in dealing with unemployment, with such modifications of method as present conditions called for, should have offered a guide for action. There had been three other serious business depressions within a generation--those of 1893-94, 1907-08, and 1914-15. What records were there of measures taken in those emergencies that would serve as a guide to present action? In October, 1921, a short summary of the most important available published reports of these crises was made for the use of the staff of the Russell Sage Foundation. Of the depression of 1893-94, this summary says in part:

On the side of the relief of the unemployed, this long and severe period of industrial depression has been voluminously reported. The American Social Science Association has a report, a Massachusetts Commission pub-

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