Social change in the form of economic restructuring and recessions has occurred across the United States throughout the country's history. The Depression of the 1930s brought hardship to all regions of the country and produced a mass migration of farmers leaving the land. More recently, widespread unemployment resulting from worldwide competition in the Rust Belt's steel industry, stagnation of U.S. car manufacturing in the face of foreign competition, the oil boom and bust in Texas, and the decline of the aerospace industry in the Northwest are all examples of macroeconomic change influencing the lives of thousands of families. Studies of unemployed autoworkers and their families, for example, revealed the staggering effects of unemployment: marriages fell apart, emotional and physical health problems increased, incidents of spouse and child abuse increased, and the demand for social services escalated (e.g., Kessler, Turner, & House, 1988; Perrucci & Targ, 1988). A similar period of economic decline struck agriculture in the 1980s and continues to plague rural areas of the country today.
Riding the 1970s crest of unprecedented prosperity that included easy credit, escalating land values, and an increasing demand for grain, farmers of the Midwest mortgaged the family farm to modernize and expand, buying larger machinery and farming larger tracts of land. In many cases, plans were made to expand their operations to make room for their sons and daughters. These economic boom times also benefited the small towns that served farm families with increased retail sales, well-paying jobs related to agriculture, and an increased tax base that spurred local economic development such as newschools and community improvements.