$20 in 1971 is worth $146.26 today

Value of $20 from 1971 to 2022

$20 in 1971 is equivalent in purchasing power to about $146.26 today, an increase of $126.26 over 51 years. The dollar had an average inflation rate of 3.98% per year between 1971 and today, producing a cumulative price increase of 631.29%.

This means that today's prices are 7.31 times higher than average prices since 1971, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index. A dollar today only buys 13.674% of what it could buy back then.

The inflation rate in 1971 was 4.38%. The current inflation rate compared to last year is now 8.26%. If this number holds, $20 today will be equivalent in buying power to $21.65 next year. The current inflation rate page gives more detail on the latest inflation rates.


Inflation from 1971 to 2022
Cumulative price change631.29%
Average inflation rate3.98%
Converted amount ($20 base)$146.26
Price difference ($20 base)$126.26
CPI in 197140.500
CPI in 2022296.171
Inflation in 19714.38%
Inflation in 20228.26%
$20 in 1971$146.26 in 2022

USD inflation since 1971
Annual Rate, the Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI
Download

Buying power of $20 in 1971

This chart shows a calculation of buying power equivalence for $20 in 1971 (price index tracking began in 1635).

For example, if you started with $20, you would need to end with $146.26 in order to "adjust" for inflation (sometimes refered to as "beating inflation").

When $20 is equivalent to $146.26 over time, that means that the "real value" of a single U.S. dollar decreases over time. In other words, a dollar will pay for fewer items at the store.

This effect explains how inflation erodes the value of a dollar over time. By calculating the value in 1971 dollars, the chart below shows how $20 is worth less over 51 years.

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:

Dollar inflation: 1971-2022
YearDollar ValueInflation Rate
1971$20.004.38%
1972$20.643.21%
1973$21.936.22%
1974$24.3511.04%
1975$26.579.13%
1976$28.105.76%
1977$29.936.50%
1978$32.207.59%
1979$35.8511.35%
1980$40.6913.50%
1981$44.8910.32%
1982$47.656.16%
1983$49.193.21%
1984$51.314.32%
1985$53.143.56%
1986$54.121.86%
1987$56.103.65%
1988$58.424.14%
1989$61.234.82%
1990$64.545.40%
1991$67.264.21%
1992$69.283.01%
1993$71.362.99%
1994$73.192.56%
1995$75.262.83%
1996$77.482.95%
1997$79.262.29%
1998$80.491.56%
1999$82.272.21%
2000$85.043.36%
2001$87.462.85%
2002$88.841.58%
2003$90.862.28%
2004$93.282.66%
2005$96.443.39%
2006$99.563.23%
2007$102.392.85%
2008$106.323.84%
2009$105.94-0.36%
2010$107.681.64%
2011$111.083.16%
2012$113.382.07%
2013$115.041.46%
2014$116.911.62%
2015$117.050.12%
2016$118.521.26%
2017$121.052.13%
2018$124.062.49%
2019$126.251.76%
2020$127.811.23%
2021$133.814.70%
2022$146.269.30%*
* Compared to previous annual rate. Not final. See inflation summary for latest 12-month trailing value.
Click to show 45 more rows

This conversion table shows various other 1971 amounts in today's dollars, based on the 631.29% change in prices:

Conversion: 1971 dollars today
Initial valueEquivalent value
$1 dollar in 1971$7.31 dollars today
$5 dollars in 1971$36.56 dollars today
$10 dollars in 1971$73.13 dollars today
$50 dollars in 1971$365.64 dollars today
$100 dollars in 1971$731.29 dollars today
$500 dollars in 1971$3,656.43 dollars today
$1,000 dollars in 1971$7,312.86 dollars today
$5,000 dollars in 1971$36,564.32 dollars today
$10,000 dollars in 1971$73,128.64 dollars today
$50,000 dollars in 1971$365,643.21 dollars today
$100,000 dollars in 1971$731,286.42 dollars today
$500,000 dollars in 1971$3,656,432.10 dollars today
$1,000,000 dollars in 1971$7,312,864.20 dollars today

Inflation by City

Inflation can vary widely by city, even within the United States. Here's how some cities fared in 1971 to 2022 (figures shown are purchasing power equivalents of $20):

  • Atlanta, Georgia: 3.91% average rate, $20 → $141.67, cumulative change of 608.33%

Atlanta, Georgia experienced the highest rate of inflation during the 51 years between 1971 and 2022 (3.91%).

Atlanta, Georgia experienced the lowest rate of inflation during the 51 years between 1971 and 2022 (3.91%).

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 £20.00 in 1971 would be equivalent to £314.21 in 2022, an absolute change of £294.21 and a cumulative change of 1,471.07%.

In Canada, CA$20.00 in 1971 would be equivalent to CA$145.38 in 2022, an absolute change of CA$125.38 and a cumulative change of 626.92%.

Compare these numbers to the US's overall absolute change of $126.26 and total percent change of 631.29%.


Inflation by Spending Category

CPI is the weighted combination of many categories of spending that are tracked by the government. Breaking down these categories helps explain the main drivers behind price changes.

This chart shows the average rate of inflation for select CPI categories between 1971 and 2022.

Compare these values to the overall average of 3.98% per year:

CategoryAvg Inflation (%)Total Inflation (%)$20 in 1971 → 2022
Food and beverages3.95621.33144.27
Housing4.11681.48156.30
Apparel1.44107.4941.50
Transportation3.82578.26135.65
Medical care5.461,403.07300.61
Recreation1.2487.6937.54
Education and communication1.80148.5549.71
Other goods and services4.941,068.91233.78

The graph below compares inflation in categories of goods over time. Click on a category such as "Food" to toggle it on or off:

For all these visualizations, it's important to note that not all categories may have been tracked since 1971. This table and charts use the earliest available data for each category.



How to calculate inflation rate for $20 since 1971

Our calculations use the following inflation rate formula to calculate the change in value between 1971 and today:

CPI today CPI in 1971
×
1971 USD value
=
Today's value

Then plug in historical CPI values. The U.S. CPI was 40.5 in the year 1971 and 296.171 in 2022:

296.17140.5
×
$20
=
$146.26

$20 in 1971 has the same "purchasing power" or "buying power" as $146.26 in 2022.

To get the total inflation rate for the 51 years between 1971 and 2022, we use the following formula:

CPI in 2022 - CPI in 1971CPI in 1971
×
100
=
Cumulative inflation rate (51 years)

Plugging in the values to this equation, we get:

296.171 - 40.540.5
×
100
=
631%

Alternate Measurements of Inflation

There are multiple ways to measure inflation. Published rates of inflation will vary depending on methodology. The Consumer Price Index, used above, is the most common standard used globally.

Alternative measurements are sometimes used based on context and economic/political circumstances. Below are a few examples of alternative measurements.

Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) Inflation

The PCE Price Index is the U.S. Federal Reserve's preferred measure of inflation, compiled by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. It measures the change in prices of goods and services purchased by consumers.

The PCE Price Index changed by 3.43% per year on average between 1971 and 2022. The total PCE inflation between these dates was 457.06%. In 1971, PCE inflation was 4.25%.

This means that the PCE Index equates $20 in 1971 with $111.41 in 2022, a difference of $91.41. Compare this to the standard CPI measurement, which equates $20 with $146.26. The PCE measured -174.22% inflation compared to standard CPI.

For more information on the difference between PCE and CPI, see this analysis provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Core Inflation

Also of note is the Core CPI, which uses the standard CPI but omits the more volatile categories of food and energy.

Core inflation averaged 3.84% per year between 1971 and 2022 (vs all-CPI inflation of 3.98%), for an inflation total of 582.70%. In 1971, core inflation was 4.69%.

When using the core inflation measurement, $20 in 1971 is equivalent in buying power to $136.54 in 2022, a difference of $116.54. Recall that the converted amount is $146.26 when all items including food and energy are measured.


Comparison to S&P 500 Index

The average inflation rate of 3.98% has a compounding effect between 1971 and 2022. As noted above, this yearly inflation rate compounds to produce an overall price difference of 631.29% over 51 years.

To help put this inflation into perspective, if we had invested $20 in the S&P 500 index in 1971, our investment would be nominally worth approximately $3,435.83 in 2022. This is a return on investment of 17,079.13%, with an absolute return of $3,415.83 on top of the original $20.

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 86.33% of returns ($2,965.99) during this period. This means the inflation-adjusted real return of our $20 investment is $449.83. You may also want to account for capital gains tax, which would take your real return down to around $382 for most people.

Investment in S&P 500 Index, 1971-2022
Original AmountFinal AmountChange
Nominal$20$3,435.8317,079.13%
Real
Inflation Adjusted
$20$469.832,249.17%

Information displayed above may differ slightly from other S&P 500 calculators. Minor discrepancies can occur because we use the latest CPI data for inflation, annualized inflation numbers for previous years, and we compute S&P price and dividends from January of 1971 to latest available data for 2022 using average monthly close price.

For more details on the S&P 500 between 1971 and 2022, see the stock market returns calculator.


Data source & citation

Raw data for these calculations comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (CPI), established in 1913. Inflation data from 1634 to 1912 is sourced from a historical study conducted by political science professor Robert Sahr at Oregon State University and from the American Antiquarian Society.

You may use the following MLA citation for this page: “$20 in 1971 → 2022 | Inflation Calculator.” Official Inflation Data, Alioth Finance, 30 Sep. 2022, https://www.officialdata.org/1971-dollars-in-2022?amount=20.

Special thanks to QuickChart for their chart image API, which is used for chart downloads.

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


Ian Webster

About the author

Ian Webster is an engineer and data expert based in San Mateo, California. He has worked for Google, NASA, and consulted for governments around the world on data pipelines and data analysis. Disappointed by the lack of clear resources on the impacts of inflation on economic indicators, Ian believes this website serves as a valuable public tool. Ian earned his degree in Computer Science from Dartmouth College.

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» Read more about inflation and investment.

Inflation from 1971 to 2022
Cumulative price change631.29%
Average inflation rate3.98%
Converted amount ($20 base)$146.26
Price difference ($20 base)$126.26
CPI in 197140.500
CPI in 2022296.171
Inflation in 19714.38%
Inflation in 20228.26%
$20 in 1971$146.26 in 2022