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If you’ve been on TikTok recently—and perhaps even if you haven’t—you may have heard about the viral new concept of a ‘‘silent depression’’ that’s apparently overwhelming younger people in the U.S. 
No, we’re not talking about the country’s mental health crisis. We’re talking about what a few TIkTokers are referring to as the dire economic reality facing ordinary people trying to make ends meet. 
The term ‘‘silent’’ refers to the fact that, on the surface, the U.S. economy is doing well. We are not in a recession; unemployment rates are low. And yet, people struggle to afford the basics more than they did in the past.
The idea caused controversy pretty much as soon as it premiered on social media. Economists have responded to the TikTokers by saying that the current economic reality is nothing like the Great Depression. Essentially, to experts on the economy, the whole concept sounds like misinformed complaining. 
Who’s right here? Is the ‘‘silent depression’’ concept simply a way for people who could be hustling a little harder to complain about their lot in life? Or is there hard data to support the claims that life has become more expensive than it was for people living through the 1930s economic catastrophe? 
We’ll try to be impartial here and look at the claims made in the TikTok videos in more detail. 
The TikTokers in question have struck a nerve with social media users by offering stark comparisons between typical expenses back in the 1930s and today. The basic argument is that core expenses like housing and transportation take up a far greater share of people’s wages than they did in what was presumably the worst economic slump in U.S. history. 
One TIkToker called Freddie Smith presents figures from 1930 versus those from 2023. According to the TikTok video, an average house now costs eight times the average salary, while it cost only three times the average salary in 1930. Renting would have taken away 16% of your wage back in 1930, but it will eat up an extraordinary 42% of it now. 
Another TikToker who calls himself Average Joe puts it even more strongly in his video: “The reason why it is called the silent depression is because we have smartphones, we have air conditioning, or people have a T.V. Because we have a credit card, and we can go into as much debt as we want. Essentially, for some reason, that makes us feel like things aren’t as bad as they are.”
The counterargument from economic experts has run as follows: We’re not in any kind of depression; you can always get a side hustle or unemployment assistance if you’re really struggling, and comparing wages and housing from back then with now is like comparing apples and oranges. 
One argument is that the data pulled up by TikTokers is imperfect: Average wage figures are especially tricky because they’re skewed by the lowest and highest values in a data set. Houses may have been cheaper, but—and this has