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The Effects of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl on Migrant Workers

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In the 1930’s a chain of events occurred in the United States. These events were the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. The Great Depression was the largest money-making decrease history had ever seen. The Dust Bowl was a series of large dust storms, which caused many to become sick. Both of those events as well as the environment affected migrant workers. So you will need to know about the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl and the effects they had towards migrant workers in the area of Salinas, California.

From 1929 to 1939, the biggest economic downturn in history occurred, this was known as the Great Depression. Americas banks and companies were failing. This led to millions being fired from their job. Since everything was failing and many could not afford things, this put the farmers in a financial crisis. The crops were ready to harvest and the farmers couldn't afford them. Instead of harvesting them they had to leave them in the fields to rot. The farmers could not provide for their families and were out of farms. The only positive outcome of all of this, helped females. During these years women were treated better. As companies and banks were failing, females were being hired. “The financial pressure, caused more women to seek jobs, while the males were losing their jobs. The amount of employed women, increased twenty-four percent and this led to less females getting married. The Great Depression not only affected farmers, migrant workers, and women, it also sped up the process of the economic crisis' (“Great Depression History”, 1).

The Dust Bowl occurred in the 1930s, roughly around the time of the Great Depression. This was a period in which dust storms and drought were spread across North American prairies. It is called the Dust Bowl because there was this huge dust storm and no one could see anything (“Dust Bowl”, Gale, 1). Even if it was right in front of them that they wouldn’t be able to see it. Many people became sick because they were breathing in dust. Thus the name “Dust Bowl” was used for this storm. This storm not only brought many getting sick, it had a bad effect on the people who owned land. Considering it was much hotter and dry it made it difficult to farm. Farmers were used to soil with much more water in it, like European-style agriculture. The Dust Bowl not only affected farmers, it left an impact on Migrant Workers (“Dust Bowl”, Gale, 1).

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A migrant worker is a person who moves around looking for work. This leads them to be open to being attacked or damaged. “A migrant worker will experience discrimination, social exculsion, and not being able to have access to health care. This person will also be open to atrocious living and working conditions” (Loganathan, 1). Migrant workers moved during these years because they were in search for a better life. Where they were staying there were not many jobs and living conditions were awful. Okies and Arkies had joined the migrant workers when they had started traveling the nation. Okies were workers from Oklahoma and Arkies were workers from Arizona” (Mapes, 1). The Great Depression put farming in a distressed state and this made the migrant workers chances of finding jobs very low. There were so many and there weren’t enough jobs for them all. This led to the migrant workers life not being so good. During this time period, life for migrant workers was very bad. They were always working for a low salary, and were in constant horrific living conditions. “Farmers would shelter the workers in shacks, chicken coops, barns, even portable wagons. The other workers would find shelter in small cabins or abandoned farm houses. These houses or cabins would not be in the best condition either. Some would have broken windows, or missing doors. Many migrant workers whether they lived by themselves or in camps always tended to be alone from everyone else. The local communities would see them as outcasts' (Mapes, 2). These workers would be shunned by these communities. When the Great Depression started to take effect, it only made it worse for the migrant workers. All these events affected migrant workers, but so did the area where they were located.

The Salinas Valley in California is a flat wet piece of land that is set between two mountain ranges. The Salinas River runs down the center until it lets out into the Monterey Bay (“Steinbeck in the Schools”). A benefit of this land is that it is a great area for farming (Saavedra, 1). The crops would be known as row crops, which are crops that are planted and grown in rows. This business is a multi-billion dollar one. As well as it is mostly dependent on water. A drawback from this is that if there were ever a drought, the land would be ruined. Considering the land is so heavily dependent on water if there were to be no more water the crops would die (Saavedra, 1).

Throughout the 1930’s there were horrifically large dust storms, this became known as The Dust Bowl. While these horrific storms were occurring, America took another hit from the Great Depression. More importantly known as the money-making fall in all of history. This left millions out of money and jobs, affecting migrant workers the greatest. While the Dust Bowl made it so farming was impossible, the Great Depression led farmers to be unable to own land. This caused the migrant workers to not have work, and not be able to provide for there family. These migrant workers would go to Salinas, California because it was the agriculture jackpot. These events not only caused an awful period in American History, but they let American be prepared to ensure that something like this would never happen again.

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The Effects of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl on Migrant Workers. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 11, 2023, from
“The Effects of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl on Migrant Workers.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022,
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