In 1938, 1 in 3 North Dakotans received public assistance

“Dakota Datebook” is a radio series from Prairie Public in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota and with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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Thirteen-million people unemployed; 5,000 failed banks; industrial production down 45%; home-building down 80%. When? Between 1929 and 1932. It was the beginning of the Great Depression, which lasted roughly 10 years.

North Dakota was not spared. On this date in 1938, the director of the state Welfare Board reported more than one in three people were on public assistance, and four out of 10 farm families needed emergency aid in January. More than 60,000 households required some form of welfare that month, at a total cost of over $2 million. McKenzie County was hardest hit, with eight out of 10 people needing help.

Some public assistance was provided at county and state levels, but most was delivered through federal public works programs and the Farm Security Administration.

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