$1 in 1939 → $18.46 in 2019

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$1 in 1939 → $18.46 in 2019

U.S. Inflation Rate, $1 in 1939 to 2019

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index, today's prices in 2019 are 1,745.83% higher than average prices throughout 1939. The dollar experienced an average inflation rate of 3.71% per year during this period, meaning the real value of a dollar decreased.

In other words, $1 in 1939 is equivalent in purchasing power to about $18.46 in 2019, a difference of $17.46 over 80 years.

The 1939 inflation rate was -1.42%. The current inflation rate (2018 to 2019) is now 1.81%1. If this number holds, $1 today will be equivalent in buying power to $1.02 next year. The current inflation rate page gives more detail on the latest official inflation rates.


Inflation from 1939 to 2019
Cumulative price change 1,745.83%
Average inflation rate 3.71%
Converted amount ($1 base) $18.46
Price difference ($1 base) $17.46
CPI in 1939 13.900
CPI in 2019 256.571
Inflation in 1939 -1.42%
Inflation in 2019 1.81%

USD Inflation since 1913
Annual Rate, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI
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Buying power of $1 in 1939

This chart shows calculation of buying power equivalence, often referred to as "the value of a dollar" over time for $1 in 1939 (price index tracking began in 1635).

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, each of these USD amounts below is equal in terms of what it could buy at the time:

Year Dollar Value Inflation Rate
1939 $1.00 -1.42%
1940 $1.01 0.72%
1941 $1.06 5.00%
1942 $1.17 10.88%
1943 $1.24 6.13%
1944 $1.27 1.73%
1945 $1.29 2.27%
1946 $1.40 8.33%
1947 $1.60 14.36%
1948 $1.73 8.07%
1949 $1.71 -1.24%
1950 $1.73 1.26%
1951 $1.87 7.88%
1952 $1.91 1.92%
1953 $1.92 0.75%
1954 $1.94 0.75%
1955 $1.93 -0.37%
1956 $1.96 1.49%
1957 $2.02 3.31%
1958 $2.08 2.85%
1959 $2.09 0.69%
1960 $2.13 1.72%
1961 $2.15 1.01%
1962 $2.17 1.00%
1963 $2.20 1.32%
1964 $2.23 1.31%
1965 $2.27 1.61%
1966 $2.33 2.86%
1967 $2.40 3.09%
1968 $2.50 4.19%
1969 $2.64 5.46%
1970 $2.79 5.72%
1971 $2.91 4.38%
1972 $3.01 3.21%
1973 $3.19 6.22%
1974 $3.55 11.04%
1975 $3.87 9.13%
1976 $4.09 5.76%
1977 $4.36 6.50%
1978 $4.69 7.59%
1979 $5.22 11.35%
1980 $5.93 13.50%
1981 $6.54 10.32%
1982 $6.94 6.16%
1983 $7.17 3.21%
1984 $7.47 4.32%
1985 $7.74 3.56%
1986 $7.88 1.86%
1987 $8.17 3.65%
1988 $8.51 4.14%
1989 $8.92 4.82%
1990 $9.40 5.40%
1991 $9.80 4.21%
1992 $10.09 3.01%
1993 $10.40 2.99%
1994 $10.66 2.56%
1995 $10.96 2.83%
1996 $11.29 2.95%
1997 $11.55 2.29%
1998 $11.73 1.56%
1999 $11.99 2.21%
2000 $12.39 3.36%
2001 $12.74 2.85%
2002 $12.94 1.58%
2003 $13.24 2.28%
2004 $13.59 2.66%
2005 $14.05 3.39%
2006 $14.50 3.23%
2007 $14.92 2.85%
2008 $15.49 3.84%
2009 $15.43 -0.36%
2010 $15.69 1.64%
2011 $16.18 3.16%
2012 $16.52 2.07%
2013 $16.76 1.46%
2014 $17.03 1.62%
2015 $17.05 0.12%
2016 $17.27 1.26%
2017 $17.63 2.13%
2018 $18.07 2.44%
2019 $18.46 2.18%*
* Compared to previous annual rate. Not final. See inflation summary for latest 12-month trailing value.
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Inflation by City

Inflation can vary widely by city, even within the United States. Here's how some cities fared in 1939 to 2019 (figures shown are purchasing power equivalents of $1):

San Francisco, California experienced the highest rate of inflation during the 80 years between 1939 and 2019 (4.00%).

Detroit, Michigan experienced the lowest rate of inflation during the 80 years between 1939 and 2019 (3.58%).

Note that some locations showing 0% inflation may have not yet reported latest data.


Inflation by Country

Inflation can also vary widely by country. For comparison, in the UK £1.00 in 1939 would be equivalent to £64.82 in 2019, an absolute change of £63.82 and a cumulative change of 6,382.21%.

In Canada, CA$1.00 in 1939 would be equivalent to CA$17.10 in 2019, an absolute change of CA$16.10 and a cumulative change of 1,610.26%.

Compare these numbers to the US's overall absolute change of $17.46 and total percent change of 1,745.83%.


Inflation by Spending Category

CPI is the weighted combination of many categories of spending that are tracked by the government. This chart shows the average rate of inflation for select CPI categories between 1939 and 2019.

Compare these values to the overall average of 3.71% per year:

Category Avg Inflation (%) Total Inflation (%) $1 in 1939 → 2019
Food 3.93 2,079.18 21.79
Shelter 4.09 2,363.00 24.63
Energy 3.78 1,851.46 19.51
Apparel 2.21 474.68 5.75
New vehicles 1.04 129.08 2.29
Used cars and trucks 0.62 64.30 1.64
Transportation services 4.23 2,651.88 27.52
Medical care services 5.31 6,152.30 62.52
Medical care commodities 3.15 1,090.93 11.91

It's important to note that not all categories may be tracked since 1939. This table and visualization use the earliest available data for each category.



How to Calculate Inflation Rate for $1 since 1939

This inflation calculator uses the following inflation rate formula:

CPI in 2019CPI in 1939
×
1939 USD value
=
2019 USD value

Then plug in historical CPI values. The U.S. CPI was 13.9 in the year 1939 and 256.571 in 2019:

256.57113.9
×
$1
=
$18.46

$1 in 1939 has the same "purchasing power" or "buying power" as $18.46 in 2019.

To get the total inflation rate for the 80 years between 1939 and 2019, we use the following formula:

CPI in 2019 - CPI in 1939CPI in 1939
×
100
=
Cumulative inflation rate (80 years)

Plugging in the values to this equation, we get:

256.571 - 13.913.9
×
100
=
1,746%

Comparison to S&P 500 Index

The average inflation rate of 3.71% has a compounding effect between 1939 and 2019. As noted above, this yearly inflation rate compounds to produce an overall price difference of 1,745.83% over 80 years.

To help put this inflation into perspective, if we had invested $1 in the S&P 500 index in 1939, our investment would be nominally worth approximately $3,903.56 in 2019. This is a return on investment of 390,256.23%, with an absolute return of $3,902.56.

These numbers are not inflation adjusted, so they are considered nominal. In order to evaluate the real return on our investment, we must calculate the return with inflation taken into account.

The compounding effect of inflation would account for 94.58% of returns ($3,691.14) during this period. This means the inflation-adjusted real return of our $1 investment is $211.43.

Investment in S&P 500 Index, 1939-2019
Original Amount Final Amount Change
Nominal $1 $3,903.56 390,256.23%
Real
Inflation Adjusted
$1 $211.43 21,142.54%


News headlines from 1939

Politics and news often influence economic performance. Here's what was happening at the time:

  • Hitler makes a speech to the German Reichstag where he threatens Jews.
  • Mahatma Gandhi begins his fast in protest against Britain’s autocratic rule in India
  • The Battle of Nanchang takes place between the Kuomintang ant the Japanese, during Sino-Japanese War.
  • The Spanish Civil War ends when Madrid falls to Francisco Franco.
  • Britain and France declare war on Germany after it invades Poland, signaling the start of World War II.
  • Mussolini’s Italy joins Hitler's war against Great Britain and France.
  • Winston Churchill is named British Prime Minister, succeeding Neville Chamberlain.
  • Nazi blitzkrieg conquest of France begins when the Germans cross the Muese River.
  • Auschwitz concentration camp is opened in Nazi-controlled Poland.

Data Source & Citation

Raw data for these calculations comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (CPI), established in 1913. Inflation data from 1665 to 1912 is sourced from a historical study conducted by political science professor Robert Sahr at Oregon State University.

You may use the following MLA citation for this page: “$1 in 1939 → 2019 | Inflation Calculator.” U.S. Official Inflation Data, Alioth Finance, 24 Aug. 2019, https://www.officialdata.org/1939-dollars-in-2019?amount=1.

Special thanks to QuickChart for providing downloadable chart images.

in2013dollars.com is a reference website maintained by the Official Data Foundation.


» Read more about inflation and investment.

Inflation from 1939 to 2019
Cumulative price change 1,745.83%
Average inflation rate 3.71%
Converted amount ($1 base) $18.46
Price difference ($1 base) $17.46
CPI in 1939 13.900
CPI in 2019 256.571
Inflation in 1939 -1.42%
Inflation in 2019 1.81%
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