Child Labor And Poverty

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In the early 20th century poverty and child labor was spread widely in American society. Beginning in 1921, a growth without precedent in the history of the world began in the American economy. Then, starting with a dramatic stock market crash in 1929, the economy collapsed. The country entered the worst economic crisis in its history. Industrial production declined, new investment virtually ceased, unemployment reached the highest proportions that ever existed. The remarkable economic growth and the big business were one side of the American economy in the 1920 s. Another was the bad distribution of wealth and purchasing power that persisted during this decade. The so called New Era Prosperity was real enough, but it was only restricted to a minority of the population. More than two-thirds of the American people in 1929 lived at no better than at the minimum comfort level. Most laborers worked for employers which were interested only in keeping their laborers costs to a minimum and, therefore, workers received wage increases that were proportionately far below the increases in corporate profits. Unskilled workers in particular, saw their wages increase very slowly- by only a little over 2% between 1920 and 1926. Many workers had no real security in their jobs. Unemployment was higher than during most of the previous decades. An average of between 5 and 7% of non-farm workers were unemployed between 1923 and 1929. American workers remained a relatively poor and powerless group in the 1920 s. Their wages rose, but the average income of a worker remained below $1500 a year at a time when $1800 were considered necessary to maintain a minimally decent standard of living. Especially in industries such as coal mining and textiles the wages didn t rise at all, but the number of working hours remained large. Especially poor were the half-million blacks who had migrated from rural into urban areas. As unskilled workers they had few opportunities and were, therefore, very poor. The American farmers of this time also experienced a decline. There was a decline in food prices which made the farmers suffer a severe drop in their incomes. Poverty not only influenced America s adult society but also had a great impact on the lives of American children. In the beginning of the 20th century the people believed that idleness was bad for children. For them factories were a protector against the evils of idleness. Even in children books and school stories the theme of labor was present. School stories usually taught that the primary work was play but the responsibilities of big game loomed as inescapable presence. The idea of moral centrality of work was strong. In World War I children and women had to replace the jobs of the men who went into the war. Poverty which was also caused through the war forced many families to send their children into factories or other working places. The children always claimed to be older than they really were. ...


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