Superficial prosperity is believed to be one of the causes of the Great Depression of the 1920s, due to the fact that people took out more loans and bought more things on credit than they could afford to pay back. This caused the impression that people were very prosperous and that they could all afford expensive things. It was, however, largely an illusion. When the illusion crashed and people were not able to repay the large amount of loans they had acquired, it launched the Great Depression.
For someone to be economically prosperous, it means that they are able to afford clothing, food, health care, education, housing and other necessities for themselves and their family. In the 1920s, people pretended that they could afford these things and more. Taking advantage of the growing film and radio entertainment industries, advertisers started campaigns that encouraged people to spend beyond their means or comfort level. These advertisements advocated that the more money people spent and the more things that they purchased, the more their lives would grow in value. It was further implied that more jobs would be created and the economy would be strengthened. In reaching for a better life for themselves and their families, people took out massive loans from banks and stores on credit. The resulting defaults contributed largely to the onset of the Great Depression.