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Prices and Wages by Decade: Quotable Facts

Links to government documents and primary sources listing retail prices for products and services, as well as wages for common occupations.

2010-2019

In the United States...

  • Minimum wage was $7.25 per hour for the entire 2010s decade. Source: U.S. Dept of Labor
  • Homes had a median value of $179,900 in 2010. Source: U.S. Census Bureau
  • Education at 4-year, public universities cost an average $17,722 for tuition, fees, room & board in 2010-11. Source: U.S. Dept of Education
  • Coffee cost $3.85 per lb. in 2010 (use drop-down box on BLS site to select year).
  • TRANSPORTATION
    • New cars cost an average $23,769 in 2010. Source: U.S. BEA
    • There were 1.14 vehicles per licensed driver in 2010. Source: U.S. Dept of Energy
    • In 2010, 19.5% of U.S. households had 3 or more vehicles, compared to 2.5% in 1960. Source: U.S. Dept of Energy
    • Gasoline averaged $2.79 per gallon in 2010. Source: U.S. Energy Info Admin
  • HEALTH CARE PERSONAL EXPENDITURES -- Source: Health, United States.
    • Health care costs averaged $9,787 per person for the year 2019, 12.7% of which the consumer paid out-of-pocket. Compare to 1960, when health care costs averaged $124 per person for the year 1960, 55.3% of which the consumer paid out-of-pocket.

2000-2009

In the United States...

  • Minimum wage was $5.15 per hour in the year 2000. Source: U.S. Dept of Labor
  • The median money income for families in 2000 was $50,732. Source: Census Bureau
  • The average earnings of year-round, full-time workers in 2009 was $62,445 for men and $44,857 for women. Source: US Census Bureau
  • Homes had a median value of $119,600 in 2000. Source: US Census Bureau
  • Education at 4-year, public universities cost an average $9199 for tuition, fees, room & board in 2001-02. Source: U.S. Dept of Education.
  • Child care cost an average $4,260 annually per family in 2001. Source: U.S. Congress.
  • Coffee cost an average $3.50 per pound in 2000. Source: U.S. BLS
  • TRANSPORTATION
    • In the year 2000...
      • New cars cost an average $19,559. Source: U.S. BEA.
      • There were 1.12 vehicles per licensed driver in the US. (Source)
      • Gas cost an average $1.51 per gallon. Source: U.S. EIA.
      • 18.3% of U.S.households had 3 or more vehicles, compared to 2.5% in 1960. Source: U.S. DOE.
  • HEALTH CARE PERSONAL EXPENDITURES
    • Prescription drugs frequently used by Medicare beneficiaries increased in price 24% from 2000 to 2004.  Source: U.S. GAO.
    • In 2000, health care costs averaged $4,103 per person. Consumer out-of-pocket payments covered 16.7%.  Source: NCHS.

1990-1999

In the United States...

  • Minimum wage was $3.80 per hour in 1990.  Source: U.S. Dept of Labor
  • The median money income in 1990 was $35,353 per family. Source: Census Bureau
  • Homes had a median value of $79,100 in 1990. Source: Census Bureau
  • Milk cost $1.42 per gallon in 1990. Source: USDA 
  • Coffee cost  $2.92/lb. in 1990. Source: U.S. BLS (use drop-down box to select year)
  • Education at 4-year, public universities cost an average $5,243 for tuition, room & board in 1990-91. Source: U.S. Dept of Education
  • TRANSPORTATION
    • New cars cost an average $14,483 in 1990. Source: U.S. BEA
    • The Ford Taurus was the top-selling car in 1990, priced at $14,722 new. Source: MMVA Motor Vehicle Facts & Figures '92
    • Gasoline cost $1 per gallon in 1990. Source: U.S. Energy Info Admin.
    • 17.3% of U.S. households in 1990 had 3 or more vehicles, compared to 2.5% in 1960. Source: U.S. Dept of Energy
  • HEALTH CARE PERSONAL EXPENDITURES
    • In 1990, health care costs averaged $2,398 per person.  Consumer out-of-pocket payments covered 22.6%. Source: NCHS
    • In 1996, the average expense per person with any medical expense was about $2,400. However, half of all people with medical expenses had expenses of less than $559 (the median value). Source: U.S. HHS.

1980-1989

In the United States...

  • Minimum wage was $3.10 per hour in 1980. Source: U.S. Dept of Labor
  • Homes had a median value of $47,200 in 1980. Source: Census Bureau
  • The Social Security benefit for retired people averaged $294.86/mo. in Jan 1980.  Source: SSA
  • Coffee cost $3.20/lb. in 1980.  Source: U.S. BLS (use drop-down box to select year)
  • Tuition, fees, room & board at 4-year, public universities cost an average $2,474 for the 1979-80 school year. Source: U.S. Dept of Education
  • A carton of cigarettes (10 packs) retailed for $9.78 in 1985.  Source: Dept of Commerce
  • TRANSPORTATION
    • New cars cost an average $7,591 in 1980. Source: U.S. BEA
    • The top selling car in America in 1980 was the Oldsmobile Cutlass, which sold for $6,204 new. Source: MMVA Motor Vehicle Facts & Figures '83.
    • Gasoline cost an average 86¢ per gallon in 1980. Source: U.S. Energy Info. Admin.
    • 17.5% of U.S. households in 1980 had 3 or more vehicles, compared to 2.5% in 1960. Source: U.S. Dept of Energy
  • HEALTH CARE PERSONAL EXPENDITURES
    • In 1980, health care costs averaged $930 per person. Consumer out-of-pocket payments covered 25.8% of that.  Source: U.S. NCHS
    • In 1986, prescriptions cost an average $14.36. Source: Congressional hearing.

1970-1979

In the United States...

  • Minimum wage was $1.60 per hour in 1970.  Source: U.S. Dept of Labor
  • Homes had a median value of $17,000 in 1970. Source: Census Bureau
  • In 1978, "the typical new home buyer is 33 years old, buying at least his second home, and has a combined income of $21,600." Source: U.S. GAO report, p. 8.
  • Cigarettes averaged 47.9¢ per pack (including tax) in 1975. Source: Congress.
  • Milk cost 66¢ per half gallon in 1970.  Source: U.S. BLS
  • Coffee cost 91¢ per lb. in 1970. Source: U.S. BLS 
  • New cars cost an average of $3,706 in 1970. Source: U.S. BEA
  • The Ford LTD was the top-selling car in 1973, priced at $4,001 new.  Source: Ward's 1973 Automotive Yearbook.
  • Gasoline cost 35¢ per gallon in 1970. It increased to 86¢ by 1979. Source: U.S. EIA
  • In 1970, 82.5% of households owned a car. Among these, households having 3 or more vehicles was 5.5% compared to 21.9% in 2018.   
  • Education at 4-year, public universities cost an average of $1,542 for tuition, fees, room & board in 1971-72. Source: U.S. Dept of Education.
  • Health care costs averaged $297 per person in 1970. Consumer out-of-pocket payments covered 38.8%.  Source: U.S. NCHS
  • Hospital care cost $124.82 per capita in fiscal year 1969-70.  Source: SSA
  • Prescriptions in 1970 averaged $3.67 to $4.06.  Source: U.S. HEW.

1960-1969

In the United States...

  • Minimum wage was $1 per hour in 1960.  Source: U.S. Dept of Labor
  • Cigarettes cost an average 26¢ per pack (including tax) in 1960. Over 50% of adult males were smokers in 1965.
  • HOUSES
    • Homes had a median value of $11,900 in 1960. Source: US Census Bureau
    • "New home buyers of the 1950s and 1960s were predominantly first-time buyers in their early 20s with only one income."  Source: 1978 U.S. GAO report, p. 8.
  • CARS
    • In 1960, 47% of car buyers made the purchase in cash. Source: Census
    • In 1960, 78.5% of households had a car. Among these, 2.5% of households had 3 or more vehicles, compared to 21% in 2016
    • Gasoline cost an average 31¢ per gallon in 1960. Source: U.S. EIA
  • Education at 4-year public colleges and universities cost an average of $929 for tuition, fees, room & board in 1963-64. Source: U.S. Dept of Education.
  • Milk cost an average 52¢ per half gallon in 1960. Source: U.S. BLS
  • Coffee cost an average 75¢ per pound in 1960. Source: U.S. BLS 
  • Health care cost $124 per capita in the year 1960, compared to almost $10,000 per capita in 2019.  Source: CDC
  • Hospital care cost $46.56 per capita in fiscal year 1959-60.  Source: SSA

1950-1959

In the United States...

  • Federal minimum wage increased to $1.00 from 75¢/hour in 1956. Source: U.S. DOL.
  • A pack of cigarettes (20-count) cost about 19¢ in 1950. Source: USDA.
  • $1.00 in July 1951 was equivalent to $10 in July 2020.  Source: CPI Inflation Calculator.
  • In 1950, the median household income was $3,000.  Source: Federal Reserve.  See more.
  • 4-person families in NYC spent an estimated $3802 annually.  Source.
  • HOUSES
    • Homes had a median value of $7,354 in 1950. Source: Census Bureau
    • New houses in 1950 typically had under 1,000 sq. feet of finished floor space. Source.
    • "New home buyers of the 1950s and 1960s predominantly were first-time buyers in their early 20s with only one income."  Source: 1978 U.S. GAO report, p. 8.
  • CARS
    • 60% of families owned a car in 1950. Source: Automobile Facts and Figures, 1957 ed.
    • In 1950, 47% of car buyers made the purchase in full cash. Source: Census Bureau
    • Gasoline cost 27¢ per gallon in 1950. Source: U.S. EIA
  • Milk cost  41¢ per half gallon in 1950. Source: U.S. BLS
  • Coffee cost 79¢ per lb. in 1950. Source: U.S. BLS 
  • A 15-word telegram from Washington DC to CA cost $1.45 in 1951. Source: FCC.
  • A 3-minute phone call from Washington DC to CA cost $2.50 in 1951. Source: FCC.
  • 62% of American households had a telephone in 1950. Source
  • 43% of the labor force had no more than a high school diploma as of 1952.  Source: U.S. BLS
  • Health expenditures were $78.35 per capita for fiscal year 1949-1950.  Source: SSA

1940-1949

In the United States...

  • Milk cost an average 52¢ per gallon in 1940. Source: U.S. BLS
  • Homes had a median value of $2,938 in 1940. Source: U.S. Census Bureau
  • Health expenditures were $28.83 per capita for fiscal year 1939-40. Source: SSA
  • By 1947, food comprised almost ⅓ of all consumer expenditures. Source: U.S. BEA
  • Less than 15% of wives worked in 1940. Source: Census Bureau
  • 46% of American households had a telephone in 1945. Source
  • Coffee cost an average 21¢ per pound in 1940. Source: U.S. BLS
  • A pack of 20 cigarettes cost about 15¢ in 1940. Source: USDA
  • 85% of 1940 model cars sold at $700 to $1,500 in late 1939.  Source: U.S. Congress
  • Gasoline cost an average 18¢ per gallon in 1940.  Source: U.S. EIA
  • In 1941, 49% of families lacked a car. By 1949, 56% had a car. Source
  • In 1948, 59% of car buyers made the purchase in full cash. Source: Census Bureau
  • As of 1940, 59.5% of people age 25+ had progressed no further than 8th grade. Source: Census Bureau.

1930-1939

In the United States...

  • Common labor starting wage was 43¢ per hour in 1930. Source: U.S. Dept of Labor.
  • Minimum wage increased from 25¢ to 30¢ per hour in October 1939. Source: U.S. DOL
  • A 30-day supply of oatmeal would a NYC family of five 75¢ in 1936.
  • Coffee cost an average 39¢ per pound in 1930. Source: U.S. BLS 
  • Milk cost an average 56¢ per gallon in 1930. Source: U.S. BLS
  • The median salary/wage income in 1939 was $956 for whites, and $364 for non-whites. Source: U.S. Census Bureau
  • The typical American home in 1934 had five rooms. Source: BLS
  • Health expenditures were $22.04 per capita in fiscal year 1934-35.
  • In 1930, less than 10% of workers earned enough to file a federal income tax return.  Source.
  • A 20-pack of cigarettes cost about 14¢ in 1935.  Source: USDA
  • 92% of new automobiles sold for less than $825 in 1934.  Source: Price of Automobiles
  • Gasoline cost an average of 18.6¢ per gallon in rural areas in 1939. Source: USDA
  • High school teachers in large cities earned a median $2,731 in 1930. Source: U.S. BLS 
  • Engineers earned a median income of $2,574 in 1932. Source: U.S. BLS
  • Good hotels charged $4-5 per day in 1930, while hospitals charged $6-7. Source: BLS.

1920-1929

In the United States...

  • In 1928, half of all families had an income of $2000 or less. Source
  • In 1927, "$30 per month was taken as the average minimum expenditure for rent in Boston for the [working class] family of four living on the American standard." Source
  • Farm laborers in MO earned an ave. $41.90/month in 1921. Source: MO Dept of Ag.
  • About 8-12% of people ages 18-21 attended college in the 20s. Source: U.S. Bur. of Ed.
  • College tuition was free to in-state residents at MU in 1921-22. Source: U.S. Bur. of Ed.
  • Milk cost an average 33¢ per half gallon in 1920. Source: U.S. BLS
  • Coffee cost an average 47¢ per pound in 1920. Source: U.S. BLS
  • Cars cost an average $2,537 in 1920 but the Model-T Ford was priced at $440.
  • Gasoline cost an average 21.7¢ per gallon in 1929. Source: USDA
  • In 1926, about 4% of workers earned enough to file a federal income tax return.
  • Cigarettes cost about 12.9¢ per pack in 1929.
  • White families spent an average $103.71/year on medical care around 1928-1931.  Source

1910-1919

In the United States...

  • 69% of earners in 1914 had a personal annual income of less than $2,000. Source: NBER
  • Farm laborers in Missouri earned an average $29.50/month in 1910.  Source
  • College tuition was was $20/year at the Univ. of MO ca. 1911.  Room, board and expenses were about $175/year and books were $10/year. Source
  • Carpenters earned 50¢ per hour in 1910 in Washington, D.C. Source: U.S. BLS
  • Carpenter tool kits cost $15.30. Source: Sears Spring 1910 catalog
  • Engineers earned an average $884 in their first year after graduation.  Source
  • Bread cost an average 5¢ per pound in 1912. Source: U.S. BLS
  • Milk cost an average 17¢ per half gallon in 1910. Source: U.S. BLS
  • Coffee cost an average 27¢ per pound in 1910. Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture 
  • 19.7% of families purchased health insurance in 1918, at an average annual cost of $17. Source: U.S. BLS.
  • Cars cost an average $2,214 in 1910 and $2,226 in 1919.
  • Cars built in the 1910s lasted about 5-7 years (6.5 years = approx. 25,750 miles on odometer)
  • There were 8 telephones per 100 people in 1910. Source
  • The cost of living increased at least 63% and possibly as much as 78% between 1914 and 1921.  Source: National Industrial Conference Board. 

1900-1909

In the United States...

  • Wage-earning men made an average of $11.16 per week in 1905. Source: Census.
  • Wage-earning women made an average of $6.17 per week in 1905. Source: Census.
  • Solid gold wedding rings were priced at $4.76 in the 1908 Sears catalog (source).
  • Black-owned farms had an average value of $434 according to the 1900 Census.
  • College tuition was free at the U of MO in 1900.  Dorms cost $12-$28/year.
  • Milk cost 14¢ per half gallon in 1900. Source: U.S. BLS
  • Coffee averaged 23¢ per pound in 1900. Source: U.S. BLS
  • Around 4,200 passenger cars were manufactured in the year 1900 (source), when the U.S. population was 76.3 million (source). 
  • Selected occupational earnings in 1900:
    • Shoemakers earned about $2.40 per day. Source: U.S. BLS
    • Carpenters earned $750 per year. Source
    • Engineers earned $1,050 per year. Source
  • In 1903, an estimated 15,000 Americans had a net worth of $300,000 or more. Source: Financial Red Book preface.
  • Life expectancy was 48.2 years for males and 50.7 for females in 1900. Source: BLS

1890-1899

  • In 1890, most families' income was around $500 to $1,000 annually. Source: Congress.
  • In 1890, wage-earning families spent an average 41% of income on food, 15% on rent, 15% on clothing, 14% on fuel & light, and 22% on misc purposes. Source: Congress.
  • One writer suggested that by American living standards of the 1890s, the following possessions would fulfill all of a typical family's wishes:
    • A home worth $2,000, free of mortgage
    • $500 in the bank
    • A horse and buggy
    • A barrel of flour in the pantry
    • Five tons of coal in the cellar
    • A cottage organ
    • New Sunday outfits for oneself and one's spouse

1880-1889

  • In the 1880s, laborers typically worked 10 hours/day, 6 days per week.  Source: NBER.
  • An 1884 Illinois survey of working class families employed in manufacturing and mining revealed the following:
    • Food represented 42% of family expenses on average.  23% of the budget went for rent, heat and light  (p. 336 of source)
    • Families spent an average $96.83 annually on rent for dwellings which averaged 4 rooms each (p. 336 of source)
    • 100% of the Black families surveyed included a mother or child working for extra income (p. 270 of source)
    • 20% of workers belonged to a labor organization, paying an average of $6.59 annually in dues (p. 337)

Government Info Librarian

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Marie Concannon
Welcomes questions from everyone
Contact:
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University of Missouri
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