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The Daily Genealogist: Interpreting the Value of the 1940 Dollar

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Lynn Betlock

Lynn Betlock
Editor

Reader Philip Hermann, a professional genealogist and educator, wrote to say that after he found his relatives in the 1940 census, he realized that he needed to understand the impact of inflation. Several questions in the 1940 census make it necessary to interpret the value of money in 1940 relative to its value today. Mr. Hermann looked into this topic and wrote the following helpful piece.

The Value of the 1940 Dollar
by Philip Hermann

A few questions in the 1940 census required answers in dollar amounts. Under “Household Data,” the value of a home or monthly rent was recorded. Under “Employment Status,” “Income in 1939” was listed.

To fully understand the dollar amounts in the 1940 census one needs to consider inflation and convert the 1940 dollar amounts to 2012 dollars.

Below are comparisons, made using the U.S. Department of Labor’s inflation calculator, between 1940 and 2012 dollars. (The inflation calculator allows you to compare dollar amounts for any year between 1913 and 2012.)

1940 Dollars2012 Dollars
$1$16.26
$1,000$16,261.64
$10,000$162,616.43

 For some context, here is a list of common goods and their prices in 1940 dollars, taken from www.thepeoplehistory.com/1940s.html.

Pork roast .39/lb.
Ground beef .55/lb.
Coffee .42/lb.
Bananas .11/lb.
Nylon hose.20 pair
Men’s suit $24.50
Sealy mattress $38.00
Ford Super Coupe$1,395.00
Average Home$3,920.00
Average Salary $1,725.00

Posted by Ellie Spinney at 04/20/2012 07:45:00 AM | 


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