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Prices and Wages by Decade: 1940-1949

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

Wages in the United States, 1940-1949

Wages by race, 1940-1949

Women's wages, 1940-1949

The U.S. Women's Bureau Handbook on Women Workers series included earnings data:


Wages by state, 1940-1949

Wages by occupation and industry (A to Z), 1940-1949

  • Utility plant wages - 1948
    Shows average hourly employee earnings at electric and gas utility plants, by region. Source: BLS Monthly labor review, Oct 1948.
  • Veterinarians' income, 1941
    Breaks out veterinarians' income by type of job, for example, working in an independent practice, doing research/education, inspection of meat and milk, etc.
  • Veterinarians' income, 1949
    Source: Table 110, Health Manpower Source Book.

Manufacturing wages, 1940-1949

Foreign wages by country, 1940-1949

Wages in AUSTRALIA, 1940s

Wages in AUSTRIA, 1940s

Wages in BELGIUM, 1940s

Wages in BRAZIL, 1940s

Wages in CANADA, 1940s

Wages in DENMARK, 1940s

Wages in FRANCE, 1940s

Wages in GERMANY, 1940s

Wages in HUNGARY, 1940s

Wages in ITALY, 1940s

Wages in KOREA, 1940s

Wages in POLAND, 1940s

Wages in the SOVIET UNION, 1940s

Wages in SPAIN, 1940s

Wages in SWEDEN, 1940s

Wages in SWITZERLAND, 1940s



Wages, analysis - 1940s

Food prices in the United States, 1940-1949

Housing, real estate and utility rates, 1940-1949

Merchandise prices, 1940-1949

These three volumes detail wholesale and retail price regulation for World War II. Published by the Office of Price Administration (OPA), there are nearly 5000 pages worth of price regulations. Some prices are listed depending on their geographic region. The office required that these products were labeled with an official tag with the OPA ceiling price. Some selected retail prices include:  

Transportation costs, 1940-1949







1946 American Airlines timetableFind fares in timetables


  • Average roundtrip fare and shipboard expenses, 1949
    Shows average price paid for roundtrip steamship tickets plus expenses on routes from New York to Europe or the Mediterranean. From Survey of Current Business article titled "American Expenditures for Foreign Travel in 1949," table 3, p. 18.


More prices, 1940-1949

In 1940, 15.3% of people aged 18-21 were enrolled in college.   4.6% of all people aged 25 years or older had completed 4 years (U.S. Census, Table A-2).

  • Local calls on pay phones generally cost one nickel
    • In the early 1940s, "most all phones were operated with nickels." Source: "Cites Chicago slug plan," Billboard June 3, 1944, p. 68, c.3-4. 
    • "The nickel phone call is yielding to the relentless pressure of higher costs. In New York City, in Rochester NY and in a number of other communities, you need a dime to get the operator or anyone else."  Source: Kiplinger's Personal Finance, March 1951, p. 44.

Cost of living and consumer expenditures, 1940s

Tools and calculators

Foreign prices by country, 1940-1949


Click the tabs above for single countries.

Prices in AUSTRIA, 1940s

Prices in CANADA, 1940s

Prices in the EAST ASIA, 1940s

Prices in FRANCE, 1940s

Prices in ITALY, 1940s

Prices in LATIN AMERICA, 1940s

Prices in the MIDDLE EAST, 1940s

Prices in SCANDINAVIA, 1940s

Prices in the SOVIET UNION, 1940s

Prices in SWITZERLAND, 1940s

Prices in the UNITED KINGDOM, 1940s

Quotable facts for the 1940s

In the United States...

  • Less than 15% of wives had paying jobs in 1940. Source: Census Bureau
  • Homes had a median value of $2,938 in 1940. Source: U.S. Census Bureau
  • In 1941, 51% of families had a car. By 1949, 56% had a car. Source
  • 46% of American households had a telephone in 1945. Source
  • By 1947, food comprised almost ⅓ of all consumer expenditures. Source: U.S. BEA
  • Health expenditures were $28.83 per capita for fiscal year 1939-40. Source: SSA
  • A pack of 20 cigarettes cost about 15¢ in 1940. Source: USDA
  • Minimum wage raged from 30¢ to 40¢ per hour in the 1940s. Source
  • Coffee cost an average 21¢ per pound in 1940. Source: U.S. BLS
  • Milk cost an average 52¢ per gallon in 1940. Source: U.S. BLS
  • 85% of 1940 model cars sold at $700 to $1,500.  Source: Congress, 1939 hearing.
  • Gasoline cost an average 18¢ per gallon in 1940.  Source: U.S. EIA
  • In 1948, 59% of car buyers paid in full with cash. Source: Census Bureau
  • As of 1940, 59% of people age 25+ had progressed no further than 8th grade. Source: Census Bureau.

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Marie Concannon, Government Information Librarian
Government Documents Department, Ellis Library
University of Missouri, Columbia
Phone (573) 882-0748