This guide points to primary sources showing average retail prices for common items or "necessities of life." Prices for foods, medicine, articles of clothing, household items, physical goods and common services fall within the domain of this guide. We've added price data for major purchases -- a house, a car, a college education. We always prefer pointing to U.S. federal and state agency publications, but will substitute other primary sources if government data is unavailable.
Price data is most meaningful when viewed in historical context. So, side-by-side with price data, you will find links to average wages, salaries, hours and earnings for workers in the same decades. To compare the buying power of U.S. dollars in different years, we recommend the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index (CPI) Inflation Calculator.
Thanks to University of Missouri Library student assistants, Catherine Hutinett, David Steinmeyer, Amanda Krewson, Kamilah Jones, Scott Peterson, Carrie Carter, and Guinevere Lawson, as well as to Pamela Campbell of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis' FRASER digital library, all of whom provided assistance in the enhancement of this resource.