The economic depression. Unemployment from 1932 to 1935 topped 20+% every year, reaching almost 25% in 1933. This is the heart of when the GG were growing up. The safety net of today didn't exist.
Our unemployment figures in the last few years reached 8% or so, depending on how they are counted. And you can go down to the unemployment office and pick up a check when you get laid off.