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The Great Depression was the worst economic slump ever in US history and one which spread to virtually all of the industrialized world The depression began in late 1929 and lasted for about a decade Many factors played a role in bringing about the depression however the main cause for the Great Depression was the combination of the greatly unequal distribution of wealth throughout the 1920s and the extensive stock market speculation that took place during the latter part that same decade The maldistribution of wealth in the 1920s existed on many levels Money was distributed disparately between the rich and the middle-class between industry and agriculture within the United States and between the US and Europe This imbalance of wealth created an unstable economy The excessive speculation in the late 1920s kept the stock market artificially high but eventually lead to large market crashes These market crashes combined with the maldistribution of wealth caused the American economy to capsize The roaring twenties was an era when our country prospered tremendously The nations total realized income rose from 743 billion in 1923 to 89 billion in 1929end note 1 However the rewards of the Coolidge Prosperity of the 1920s were not shared evenly among all Americans According to a study done by the Brookings Institute in 1929 the top 01 of Americans had a combined income equal to the bottom 42end note 2 That same top 01 of Americans in 1929 controlled 34 of all savings while 80 of Americans had no savings at allend note 3 Automotive industry mogul Henry Ford provides a striking example of the unequal distribution of wealth between the rich and the middle-class Henry Ford reported a personal income of 14 millionend note 4 in the same year that the average personal income was 750end note 5 By present day standards where the average yearly income in the US is around 18500end note 6 Mr Ford would be earning
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