The Great Depression was that worst economical problem the United States had ever experienced. After what seemed to be boundless prosperity in the 1920s, many Americans were totally shocked at the thought of an economic slump. The Depression was a time of trial and transgression. The effects of it touched all areas of American life. Though many factors played a role in the Great Depression, one always stands out: the Stock Market Crash of 1929.
When Herbert Hoover became President in 1928, the attitude of the American people was a very positive one. The people were confident in their economy and in their government. Many Americans had experienced prosperity in the last decade, and believed that it would continue. On January 1, 1929, an editorial in the New York Times stated, "It has been twelve months of unprecedented advance, of wonderful prosperity. If there is any way of judging the future by the past, this new year will be one of felicitation and hopefulness." Not all Americans were included in the "wonderful prosperity", however. Farmers, coal miners, and textile workers were poverty stricken during the 1920s due to low prices. Many American workers couldn't even afford to purchase the items they helped produce. .
The economy was becoming unbalanced. The top 0.1% of Americans had a combined income equal to that of the bottom 42%. That same top 0.1% in 1929 controlled 34% of all savings, while 80% of Americans had no savings at all. This maldistribution of wealth between the middle class and the rich grew during the 1920s.
Increased manufacturing output played a vital role in separating the wealthy and the middle class. The average output per worker increased by 32% in manufacturing, while at the time, wages for manufacturing jobs grew by only 8%. As production costs decreased, wages increased, and prices remained constant, the bulk benefit of the increased productivity fell to corporate profits.