It Took Six Major Depressions and a Lot of Out-of-Work Americans to Create a National Unemployment Count

What the Monthly Reports Measure, What They Miss, and How They Were Established

Monthly public reports on jobs and the unemployment rate are such a staple of American civic life that it can seem as if they’ve always been with us. But these reports are relatively new, and their establishment was neither quick nor easy. In recent months, they’ve become a barometer of the virus and our economic recovery, or lack thereof. Which is why we’d do well to understand what they measure, what they miss, and how they were established.

For the first 60 years of the modern economy—roughly from 1873 to 1933—the …

The Great Depression Will Not Help Us Solve the COVID-19 Downturn | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

The Great Depression Will Not Help Us Solve the COVID-19 Downturn

The Stories of Past Economic Crises Are Nuanced, Complex, Messy, and Don’t Point to an Obvious Path Forward

Unemployment levels not seen since the 1930s have prompted journalists and pundits in the U.S. to look back to previous eras—particularly the Great Depression—for lessons on how to escape the …

How Warren Harding’s Campaign for ‘Normalcy’ Led to Catastrophe | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

How Warren Harding’s Campaign for ‘Normalcy’ Led to Catastrophe

The 29th President’s Promise of Safety to a Nation Shaken by WWI and the 1918 Flu Led to Freewheeling Consumption and Giddy Speculation

What is normalcy? And what does it mean when we tell ourselves that we want to get back to it?

When American historians hear talk of “normalcy,” we think of Warren …

When the U.S. Government Asked American Families to Turn in Their Gold

American Default: The Untold Story of FDR, the Supreme Court, and the Battle Over Gold

At $20 trillion, the national debt of the United States is slightly bigger than the annual output of the American economy. Government shutdowns and brinksmanship about extending the country’s debt …

How Nashville ‘Killed’ Traditional Country Music—and Then Reinvented It

The Genre Created by 'Hillbillies' and Folkies Now Speaks to Pickup-Driving Suburbanites

25 years ago, American Heritage writer Tony Scherman declared traditional country music dead and done with, asking, “How far from its social origins can an art form grow before it …

How Deprivation and the Threat of Violence Made Sweden Equal

War and the Great Depression Spurred Its Embrace of the Welfare State

Sweden is almost universally regarded as a bastion of sensible people, temperate social policies, and steady, evenly distributed economic growth. So it surprises many to learn that the Scandinavian country …