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Prices and Wages by Decade: 1950-1959

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, 1950-1959

Income by race, 1950-1959

Some of the sources below give statistics for all "non-white" rather than specific racial groups. The U.S. Dept of Labor clarified that at the time, "Negroes constitute[d] more than 95% of the non-white residents of the U.S."

PERSONAL INCOME

FAMILY INCOME

Wages by sex, 1950-1959

Wages by occupation (A to Z), 1950-1959

SEE ALSO additional health professions under respective tabs above, for example "D" for Doctors.

  • Utilities plants wages - 1950
    Shows the average hourly wage rates of different occupations at electric and gas plants throughout the United States. Source: BLS Monthly labor review, June 1951.
  • Veterinarians - Salary and earnings
    • 1953.  Source: Kiplinger Magazine's Changing Times
    • 1955-1958.  Source: Occupational outlook handbook, 1959 ed.
  • X-ray technician salaries  
    • 1951-1952.  With breakouts by years of experience, type of employer, sex, etc.  Source: Women's Bureau Bulletin #203-8, pp. 17-20.
    • 1957. Source: Occupational outlook handbook, 1959 ed.

Manufacturing wages, 1950-1959

WAGES in MANUFACTURING, 1950s -- General sources

See tabs above for specific industries

WAGES in FOOD MANUFACTURING, 1950s

WAGES in MOTOR-VEHICLE MANUFACTURING, 1950s

Wages by location, 1950-1959

Click on a state tab above to see further breakouts by city.  Most of the sources listed here lead to issues of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Wage Survey.   It lists wages and salaries for many occupations, including bookkeeper, accounting clerk, carpenter, crane operator, office boy, office girl, secretary, stenographer, switchboard operator, typist, draftsman, nurse, electrician, engineer, fireman, machinist, mechanic, millwright, painter, pipe fitter, plumber, elevator operator, guard, janitor, truck driver, watchman and more.  

Another source titled Employment, Hours and Earnings provides average pay for production workers in manufacturing industries by state and city in 1949 and 1950.  Click here for the start of the table, beginning with Alabama, and use the "Search in this Text" box to find data for additional states and cities.

  • Birmingham, Alabama
    • April 1952 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1107)
    • January 1957 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1202-10)
  • Phoenix, Arizona
    • March 1952 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1103)
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach, California
    • March 1956 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1188-13)
    • March 1957 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1202-11)
    • March 1958 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1224-13)
    • March 1959 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1240-15)
  • San Bernardino-Riverside-Ontario, California
  • San Francisco-Oakland, California
  • Bridgeport, Connecticut
    • June 1951 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1044)
  • Hartford, Connecticut
  • Washington, D.C.-Maryland-Virginia
  • Jacksonville, Florida
    • May 1952 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1110)
    • December 1959 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1265-14)
  • Miami, Florida
  • Atlanta, Georgia
    • March 1951 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1031)
    • March 1952 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1102)
    • March 1953 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1116-18)
    • March 1955 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1172-11)
    • April 1956 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1188-18)
    • April 1957 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1202-16)
    • May 1958 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1224-17)
    • May 1959 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1240-19)
  • Chicago, Illinois
    • April 1951 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1034)
    • March 1952 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1105)
    • March 1953 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1116-15)
    • April 1955 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1172-14)
    • April 1956 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1188-15)
    • April 1957 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1202-15)
    • April 1958 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1224-14)
    • April 1959 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1240-18)
  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Louisville, Kentucky
    • May 1952 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1112)
  • New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Negro employment in three companies in the New Orleans area
    • September 1955 article in the Monthly Labor Review, pp. 1020-2023
      Describes wage and promotion policies for Black workers, but does not list wages.
  • Portland, Maine
  • Baltimore, Maryland
    • June 1951 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1045)
    • October 1952 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1116-6)
    • April 1955 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1172-15)
    • August 1957 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1224-3)
    • August 1958 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1240-2)
    • September 1959 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1265-7)
  • Washington, D.C.-Maryland-Virginia
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Lawrence, Massachusetts
    • February 1956 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1188-11)
    • May 1959 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1240-21)
  • Worcester, Massachusetts
  • Detroit, Michigan
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota

Average weekly and hourly earnings for employees in manufacturing jobs, for each year from 1950-1959 provided in Payroll progress in Mississippi, 1939-1959; a study of wage and salary employment.  Tables extend from pages 86-107.  This is a publication of the Mississippi Employment Security Commission.

 

  • Newark-Jersey City, New Jersey
  • Trenton, New Jersey
    • March 1952 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1104)
  • Albany-Schenectady-Troy, New York
    • March 1952 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1108)
  • Buffalo, New York
  • New York, New York
    • April 1951 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1037)
    • January 1952 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1101)
    • February 1953 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1116-16)
    • March 1955 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1172-13)
    • April 1956 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1188-17)
    • April 1957 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1202-17)
    • April 1958 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1224-15)
    • April 1959 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1240-17)
  • Rochester, New York
  • Canton, Ohio
  • Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Cleveland, Ohio
  • Columbus, Ohio
    • April 1952 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1109)
  • Dayton, Ohio
    • June 1951 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1041)
    • December 1959 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1265-9)
  • Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  • Portland, Oregon
    • June 1951 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1042)
    • September 1952 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1116-2)
    • April 1955 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1172-16)
    • April 1956 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1188-16)
    • April 1957 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1202-12)
    • April 1958 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1224-16)
    • April 1959 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1240-20)
  • Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, Pennsylvania
    • May 1952 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1111)
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Scranton, Pennsylvania
  • Providence, Rhode Island
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Fort Worth, Texas
  • Houston, Texas

Texas public school teacher salaries

  • 1952-1953 as shown in the Texas Almanac, 1954-1955 edition, p. 406.
  • Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Norfolk-Portsmouth, Virginia
  • Richmond, Virginia
  • Washington, D.C.-Maryland-Virginia
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    • March 1952 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1099)
    • April 1953 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1116-19)
    • November 1955 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1188-3)
    • May 1958 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1224-18)
    • April 1959 Occupational Wage Survey (Bulletin 1240-16)

International wages by country, 1950-1959

Non-wage sources of income, 1950-1959

Wages - Analysis - 1950s

Food prices in the United States, 1950-1959

  • Restaurant food and drink prices, 1950s 

    Site has nearly 800 scanned restaurant menus from the 1950-1959 decade. This is not a government resource but it can be useful for spot-checking prices for specific food or beverages at restaurants.

  • Restaurant meal prices by state, 1959 

    Restaurant directory is arranged by state and cities. Indicates price ranges for breakfast, lunch or dinner at thousands of establishments. Source: Adventures in good eating.

Housing, real estate and utilities, 1950-1959

Transportation and travel, 1950-1959

 

 

 

 

  • Air travel - Average fare in cents per mile, 1946-1966
    Airfare rates were published in Forecast of scheduled domestic air passenger traffic for the eleven trunkline carriers, 1968-1977, published by the Civil Aeronautics Board.
  • Air fares, 1950s
    Many airlines' timetables listed passenger fares, usually after the flight schedules.  Contact us if you need assistance.

 

 

  • Travel guide for African Americans, 1947-1963
    1952 TravelguideTravelguides for African-Americans listed hotel rates

    Subtitled "Vacation and recreation without humiliation," the Travelguide series listed hotels and travel attractions that were friendly to African American vacationers. Issues show rates for many hotels and costs for other vacation expenses such as fishing licenses.
  • Budget vacations with costs itemized, 1955
    The book 150 Budget Vacations from $100 to $1,000 shows hotel rates, transportation costs, ticket prices to attractions, etc.
  • Vacation accommodations, 1953
    Travel guidebook lists rates for cabins, cottages, guest ranches, resort hotels, etc. by state. Source: Vacation guide by Duncan Hines.
  • Hotel rates by state and city, 1959
    The travel guidebook New Horizons U.S.A. had a section for price of accommodations in each city, showing rates as of 1959.

Merchandise prices, 1950-1959

Health costs and prices, 1950-1959

  • Medical services - Average costs by city, 1958 

    Shows the average rates for hospital rooms, doctor visits, house calls, and the average costs for obstetrical cases, appendectomies, tonsillectomies, and tooth fillings in twenty American cities. Source: 1960 Statistical Abstract of the U.S., p. 339.

  • Medical services - Average costs by city, 1959 

    Shows the average rates for hospital rooms, doctor visits, house calls, and the average costs for obstetrical cases, appendectomies, tonsillectomies, and tooth fillings in twenty American cities. Source: 1961 Statistical Abstract of the U.S., p. 341.

Education expense, 1950-1959

In 1950, 19.3% of people aged 18-21 were enrolled in college (U.S. Bureau of Education) and 6.2% of people aged 25 years or older had completed 4 years (Census, Table A-2).

Communication rates, 1950-1959

Cost of living and consumer expenditures in the 1950s - Analysis

Foreign prices by country, 1950-1959

Cost of living in Europe 

Cost of housing, home furnishings, telephone service, food, clothing, education, hospitalization, doctor visits, cigarettes, haircuts, laundry service, school tuition, gasoline, bus fare and more. Source: U.S. Dept of Commerce.

Gasoline prices in Europe, 1950s
Lists retail gasoline prices in US dollars for Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, West Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Yugoslavia.  This is a quarterly publication; additional issues can viewed by scrolling forward after clicking an issue below.  Each issue covers a different set of countries. Source: World retail prices and taxes on gasoline, kerosene and motor lubricating oils, U.S. Department of the Interior.

Cost of living in the Middle East 

Cost of housing, home furnishings, food, clothing, education, doctor visits, cigarettes, haircuts, laundry service and more. Source: U.S. Dept of Commerce.

Gasoline prices in the Middle East, 1950s
Lists retail prices for major cities and areas in the Middle East, figured in US dollars.  Source: World retail prices and taxes on gasoline, kerosene and motor lubricating oils, U.S. Department of the Interior.

Cost of living in Asia 

Cost of housing, food, clothing, education, cigarettes, haircuts, laundry service and more.  Source: U.S. Dept of Commerce.

Gasoline prices in Asia, 1950s
Lists retail prices for gasoline in US dollars.  This is a quarterly publication; additional issues can viewed by scrolling forward after clicking an issue below.  Source: World retail prices and taxes on gasoline, kerosene and motor lubricating oils, U.S. Department of the Interior.

Cost of living in Oceania 

Cost of housing, home furnishings, telephone service, food, clothing, education, hospitalization, doctor visits, cigarettes, haircuts, laundry service, school tuition, gasoline, bus fare and more.  Source: U.S. Dept of Commerce.

Gasoline prices - Australia and New Zealand, 1950s
Lists retail gas prices in US dollars.  This is a quarterly publication; additional issues can viewed by scrolling forward after clicking an issue below.  Source: World retail prices and taxes on gasoline, kerosene and motor lubricating oils, U.S. Department of the Interior.

Cost of living in Africa 

Cost of housing, utilities, food, clothing, education, doctor visits, cigarettes, haircuts, laundry service, cost to hire domestic help such as cooks and gardeners, gasoline, public transportation and more. Source: U.S. Dept of Commerce.

Gasoline prices in Africa, 1950s
Lists retail prices for gasoline in Algeria, British East Africa, British South Africa, British West Africa, Ethiopia, French West Africa, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Morocco, Spanish Morocco, Portuguese East Africa, Sudan, Tunisia and the Union of South Africa in US dollars.  This is a quarterly publication; additional issues can viewed by scrolling forward after clicking an issue below.   Source: World retail prices and taxes on gasoline, kerosene and motor lubricating oils, U.S. Department of the Interior.

Gasoline prices in Canada and Iceland, 1950s
Lists retail prices in Canada and Iceland in US dollars.  This is a quarterly publication; additional issues can viewed by scrolling forward after clicking an issue below.  Source: World retail prices and taxes on gasoline, kerosene and motor lubricating oils, U.S. Department of the Interior.

Cost of living in Central America 

Cost of housing, home furnishings, electricity, telephone service, food, clothing, education, hospitalization, doctor visits, cigarettes, haircuts, laundry service, cost to hire domestic help such as cooks and gardeners, gasoline, bus fare and more.  Source: U.S. Dept of Commerce.

Gasoline prices in Central America, 1950s
Lists retail prices in US dollars.  This is a quarterly publication; additional issues can viewed by scrolling forward after clicking an issue below.  Source: World retail prices and taxes on gasoline, kerosene and motor lubricating oils, U.S. Department of the Interior.

Cost of living in South America 

Cost of housing, home furnishings, electricity, telephone service, food, clothing, education, hospitalization, doctor visits, cigarettes, haircuts, laundry service, cost to hire domestic help such as cooks and gardeners, gasoline, bus fare and more.  Source: U.S. Dept of Commerce.

Gasoline prices in South America, 1950s
Lists retail prices for gasoline in US dollars.  This is a quarterly publication; additional issues can viewed by scrolling forward after clicking an issue below.  Source: World retail prices and taxes on gasoline, kerosene and motor lubricating oils, U.S. Department of the Interior.

Cost of living in the Caribbean 

Cost of housing, home furnishings, utilities, food, clothing, education, hospitalization, doctor visits, cigarettes, haircuts, laundry service, gasoline, bus fare and more.  Source: U.S. Dept of Commerce.

Gasoline prices in the Caribbean, 1950s
Lists retail gasoline prices in US dollars.  Source: World retail prices and taxes on gasoline, kerosene and motor lubricating oils, U.S. Department of the Interior.

Inflation and buying power, 1950s

What is the Consumer Price Index (CPI)?

"The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a representative basket of consumer goods and services" with respect to a given base year with value 100. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

What is inflation?

As measured with CPI, it is the percent change in the CPI between two different years, showing the "annual percentage change in the cost to the average consumer of acquiring a basket of goods and services". Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

CPI Inflation Formula: CPIx-1-CPIxCPIx*100

Quotable facts for the 1950-1959 decade

In the United States...

  • Federal minimum wage increased from 75¢ to $1.00/hour in 1956. Source: U.S. DOL.
  • In 1950, the median household income was $3,000.  Source: Federal Reserve.  See further income stats from the Census Bureau.
  • 4-person families in NYC spent an estimated $3802 annually.  Source.
  • HOUSING
    • 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: U.S. GAO
  • TRANSPORTATION
    • 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 pack of cigarettes (20-count) cost about 19¢ in 1950. Source: USDA.
  • 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

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Reference service is available Monday - Friday, 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Marie Concannon, Government Information Librarian
Government Documents Department
106B Ellis Library (1st Floor East)
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Phone (573) 882-0748