$38,000 in 1978 → $139,881.38 in 2016

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U.S. Inflation Rate, $38,000 in 1978 to 2016

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index, prices in 2016 are 268.11% higher than prices in 1978. The dollar experienced an average inflation rate of 3.49% per year during this period.

In other words, $38,000 in 1978 is equivalent in purchasing power to $139,881.38 in 2016, a difference of $101,881.38 over 38 years.

The 1978 inflation rate was 7.59%. The inflation rate in 2016 was 1.26%. The 2016 inflation rate is lower compared to the average inflation rate of 2.50% per year between 2016 and 2018.


Inflation from 1978 to 2016
Cumulative price change 268.11%
Average inflation rate 3.49%
Converted amount ($38,000 base) $139,881.38
Price difference ($38,000 base) $101,881.38
CPI in 1978 65.2
CPI in 2016 240.007
Inflation in 1978 7.59%
Inflation in 2016 1.26%


U.S. Inflation since 1913
Annual Rate, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI

Buying power of $38,000 since 1978

This chart shows calculations of buying power equivalence over time for $38,000 in 1978 (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 USD Value Inflation Rate
1978 $38,000.00 7.59%
1979 $42,312.88 11.35%
1980 $48,024.54 13.50%
1981 $52,978.53 10.32%
1982 $56,242.33 6.16%
1983 $58,049.08 3.21%
1984 $60,555.21 4.32%
1985 $62,711.66 3.56%
1986 $63,877.30 1.86%
1987 $66,208.59 3.65%
1988 $68,947.85 4.14%
1989 $72,269.94 4.82%
1990 $76,174.85 5.40%
1991 $79,380.37 4.21%
1992 $81,769.94 3.01%
1993 $84,217.79 2.99%
1994 $86,374.23 2.56%
1995 $88,822.09 2.83%
1996 $91,444.79 2.95%
1997 $93,542.94 2.29%
1998 $95,000.00 1.56%
1999 $97,098.16 2.21%
2000 $100,361.96 3.36%
2001 $103,217.79 2.85%
2002 $104,849.69 1.58%
2003 $107,239.26 2.28%
2004 $110,095.09 2.66%
2005 $113,825.15 3.39%
2006 $117,496.93 3.23%
2007 $120,843.50 2.85%
2008 $125,483.34 3.84%
2009 $125,036.90 -0.36%
2010 $127,087.85 1.64%
2011 $131,099.42 3.16%
2012 $133,812.45 2.07%
2013 $135,772.48 1.46%
2014 $137,974.97 1.62%
2015 $138,138.74 0.12%
2016 $139,881.38 1.26%
2017 $142,861.35 2.13%
2018 $146,956.26 2.87%*
* Compared to previous annual rate. Not final. See inflation summary for latest 12-month trailing value.

Inflation by City

Inflation can vary widely by city, even within the United States. Here's how some cities fared in 1978 to 2016 (figures shown are purchasing power equivalents of $38,000):

San Francisco, California experienced the highest rate of inflation during the 38 years between 1978 and 2016 (3.81%).

Houston, Texas experienced the lowest rate of inflation during the 38 years between 1978 and 2016 (3.23%).


Inflation by Country

Inflation can also vary widely by country. For comparison, in the UK £38,000.00 in 1978 would be equivalent to £199,994.52 in 2016, an absolute change of £161,994.52 and a cumulative change of 426.30%.

In Canada, CA$38,000.00 in 1978 would be equivalent to CA$128,738.79 in 2016, an absolute change of CA$90,738.79 and a cumulative change of 238.79%.

Compare these numbers to the US's overall absolute change of $101,881.38 and total percent change of 268.11%.


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 1978 and 2016.

Compare these values to the overall average of 3.49% per year:

Category Avg Inflation (%) Total Inflation (%) $38,000 in 1978 → 2016
Food 3.31 244.09 130,754.81
Shelter 4.19 376.47 181,060.05
Energy 3.43 260.64 137,045.06
Apparel 1.16 54.91 58,864.04
New vehicles 1.14 53.65 58,387.83
Used cars and trucks 0.76 33.50 50,729.39
Transportation services 3.34 247.87 132,190.45
Medical care services 5.65 708.03 307,053.13
Medical care commodities 4.69 469.67 216,476.50

It's important to note that not all categories may be tracked since 1978. This table and visualization use the earliest available data for each category.



How to Calculate Inflation Rate for $38,000, 1978 to 2016

This inflation calculator uses the following inflation rate formula:

CPI in 2016CPI in 1978
×
1978 USD value
=
2016 USD value

Then plug in historical CPI values. The U.S. CPI was 65.2 in the year 1978 and 240.007 in 2016:

240.00765.2
×
$38,000
=
$139,881.38

$38,000 in 1978 has the same "purchasing power" or "buying power" as $139,881.38 in 2016.

To get the total inflation rate for the 38 years between 1978 and 2016, we use the following formula:

CPI in 2016 - CPI in 1978CPI in 1978
×
100
=
Cumulative inflation rate (38 years)

Plugging in the values to this equation, we get:

240.007 - 65.265.2
×
100
=
268%

Alternate Measurements of Inflation

The above data describe the CPI for all items. Also of note is the Core CPI, which measures inflation for all items except for the more volatile categories of food and energy. Core inflation averaged 3.56% per year between 1978 and 2016 (vs all-CPI inflation of 3.49%), for an inflation total of 278.17%.

When using the core inflation measurement, $38,000 in 1978 is equivalent in buying power to $143,704.91 in 2016, a difference of $105,704.91. Recall that for All Items, the converted amount is $139,881.38 with a difference of $101,881.38.

In 1978, core inflation was 7.28%.


Comparison to S&P 500 Index

The average inflation rate of 3.49% during these years has a compounding effect. As noted above, this yearly inflation rate produces an overall price difference of 268.11% over 38 years.

To help put this inflation into perspective, if you had invested $38,000 in the S&P 500 index in 1978, your investment would be worth approximately $2,816,767.22 in 2016. This is a change of 7,312.55%.

This means the nominal return on a $38,000 investment is $2,778,767.22, but inflation would eat into your real returns.

Inflation would account for 72.83% of your returns ($2,023,890.81), for an inflation-adjusted real return of about $754,876.41.

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: “$38,000 in 1978 → 2016 | Inflation Calculator.” U.S. Official Inflation Data, Alioth Finance, 16 Oct. 2018, https://www.officialdata.org/1978-dollars-in-2016?amount=38000.

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


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