Article ID: CBB997404519

“I’m at My Rope’s End”: Suicide in New Orleans, 1920–1940 (2021)


For over a century, researchers have argued that suicide in the United States fluctuates with business cycles, rising during downturns, when “deaths of despair” skyrocket, and falling during flush periods. Using case-level data from autopsy reports and suicide notes, this essay analyzes suicide trends in New Orleans between 1920 and 1940, an era that included immense prosperity and the Great Depression. Thus, the essay draws from quantitative and qualitative evidence to revisit the leading explanation for suicide patterns. It concludes that only a small segment of the population experienced surges and contractions in response to economic forces. For other New Orleanians, different stressors, relating to class-, race-, and gender-based expectations, shaped suicidal behavior. Firearm availability and public health conditions also influenced suicide patterns. Counterintuitively, suicide rates soared in good times and plummeted in bad times.

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Authors & Contributors
Malin, Brenton J.
Dixon, Thomas
Hau, Michael G.
Paster, Gail Kern
Rowe, Katherine
Floyd-Wilson, Mary
Technology and Culture
Journal of the History of Ideas
History of the Human Sciences
Journal of Social History
Science in Context
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
University of Chicago Press
University of Pennsylvania Press
Random House
University of Rochester Press
University of Chicago
University of Illinois Press
Emotions; passions
Social sciences
Motion pictures; cinema; movies
James, William
Bain, Alexander
McCosh, James
Brown, Thomas
Ladd, George T.
Freud, Sigmund
Time Periods
20th century, early
19th century
20th century, late
Early modern
17th century
United States
Great Britain
Vienna (Austria)

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