Problem of the Migrant Unemployed

July 10, 1939

Report Outline
Development of Problem in the Depression
Extent and Causes of Migrant Problem
Conditions Among Migrants in California
Relief Efforts and Remedial Proposals

Development of Problem in the Depression

When the federal government, in the spring of 1933, assumed primary responsibility for extension of relief to the needy, special provision was made for assistance to the transient unemployed. Attention had been directed to this particular phase of the relief problem by the presence in cities and on the roads of thousands of boys and young men wandering from place to place In search of work. Concern had been expressed lest the depression was creating in the United States a class of youthful nomads comparable to the homeless children of Russia. The federal transient program was liquidated in 1935, when it was anticipated that all needy employable persons could be given work on projects of the newly-created Works Progress Administration.

Already there had begun a considerable westward migration of families who had been driven from the Great Plains states by the drought and dust storms of 1934. Another severe drought in 1936, together with the rapidly increasing mechanization of agriculture in certain areas, augmented this movement. A large proportion of the drought refugees journeyed to California in the hope of finding work and the opportunity of establishing themselves anew. In most cases, however, they were able only to join the crowded ranks of migratory agricultural workers, following the crops up and down the state and eking out no more than a bare existence. Since they were non-residents, state and local relief channels were frequently closed to them, and there was no adequate federal provision to meet their needs.

While the transient problem is most dramatically illustrated by the plight of Dust Bowl refugees in California, it is not confined to migrants from the drought regions, nor does it impose burdens solely on a few western states. Recent studies have disclosed that there was considerable family migration even in the days when public attention was concentrated on the problem of wandering youths, that every state has been affected in greater or less degree by such migration, and that economic forces are at work which will tend to produce a continuing stream of migrants. Students of the question are agreed that the interstate nature of the migration and its nationwide incidence make the problem of the migrant unemployed of national concern and capable of satisfactory solution only at the hands of the federal government.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Mar. 05, 1965  Unemployment Benefits in Times of Prosperity
Apr. 03, 1964  Overtime Pay Rates and Unemployment
Feb. 01, 1961  Unemployment and New Jobs
Jan. 07, 1959  Lag in Employment
Apr. 16, 1958  Emergency Jobless Aid
May 16, 1956  Lay-Off Pay Plans
Nov. 12, 1953  Jobless Compensation in Boom and Recession
Feb. 25, 1949  Defenses Against Unemployment
Jul. 30, 1945  Full Employment
Nov. 25, 1940  Unemployment Compensation
Jul. 10, 1939  Problem of the Migrant Unemployed
May 19, 1936  Unemployment and Recovery
Sep. 02, 1931  Public Employment Exchanges
Aug. 19, 1929  The Stabilization of Employment
Feb. 21, 1928  The Employment Situation in the United States
Jan. 23, 1926  Unemployment Insurance in the United States
Outsourcing and Immigration
Unemployment and Employment Programs
Work and the Family