$20 in 1972 is worth $124.54 today

Value of $20 from 1972 to 2020

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index, today's prices in 2020 are 522.68% higher than average prices since 1972. The U.S. dollar experienced an average inflation rate of 3.88% per year during this period, causing the real value of a dollar to decrease.

In other words, $20 in 1972 is equivalent in purchasing power to about $124.54 in 2020, a difference of $104.54 over 48 years.

The 1972 inflation rate was 3.21%. The current year-over-year inflation rate (2019 to 2020) is now 1.37%1. If this number holds, $20 today will be equivalent in buying power to $20.27 next year. The current inflation rate page gives more detail on the latest official inflation rates.


Inflation from 1972 to 2020
Cumulative price change 522.68%
Average inflation rate 3.88%
Converted amount ($20 base) $124.54
Price difference ($20 base) $104.54
CPI in 1972 41.800
CPI in 2020 260.280
Inflation in 1972 3.21%
Inflation in 2020 1.37%

USD Inflation since 1913
Annual Rate, the Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI
Download

Buying power of $20 in 1972

This chart shows a calculation of buying power equivalence for $20 in 1972 (price index tracking began in 1635).

For example, if you started with $20, you would need to end with $124.54 in order to "adjust" for inflation (sometimes refered to as "beating inflation").

When $20 is equivalent to $124.54 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 1972 dollars, the chart below shows how $20 is worth less over 48 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: 1972-2020
Year Dollar Value Inflation Rate
1972 $20.00 3.21%
1973 $21.24 6.22%
1974 $23.59 11.04%
1975 $25.74 9.13%
1976 $27.22 5.76%
1977 $29.00 6.50%
1978 $31.20 7.59%
1979 $34.74 11.35%
1980 $39.43 13.50%
1981 $43.49 10.32%
1982 $46.17 6.16%
1983 $47.66 3.21%
1984 $49.71 4.32%
1985 $51.48 3.56%
1986 $52.44 1.86%
1987 $54.35 3.65%
1988 $56.60 4.14%
1989 $59.33 4.82%
1990 $62.54 5.40%
1991 $65.17 4.21%
1992 $67.13 3.01%
1993 $69.14 2.99%
1994 $70.91 2.56%
1995 $72.92 2.83%
1996 $75.07 2.95%
1997 $76.79 2.29%
1998 $77.99 1.56%
1999 $79.71 2.21%
2000 $82.39 3.36%
2001 $84.74 2.85%
2002 $86.08 1.58%
2003 $88.04 2.28%
2004 $90.38 2.66%
2005 $93.44 3.39%
2006 $96.46 3.23%
2007 $99.21 2.85%
2008 $103.02 3.84%
2009 $102.65 -0.36%
2010 $104.33 1.64%
2011 $107.63 3.16%
2012 $109.85 2.07%
2013 $111.46 1.46%
2014 $113.27 1.62%
2015 $113.41 0.12%
2016 $114.84 1.26%
2017 $117.28 2.13%
2018 $120.21 2.49%
2019 $122.32 1.76%
2020 $124.54 1.81%*
* Compared to previous annual rate. Not final. See inflation summary for latest 12-month trailing value.
Click to show 42 more rows

This conversion table shows various other 1972 amounts in today's dollars, based on the 522.68% change in prices:

Conversion Table: Value of a dollar today
Initial value Equivalent value
$1 dollar in 1972 $6.23 dollars today
$5 dollars in 1972 $31.13 dollars today
$10 dollars in 1972 $62.27 dollars today
$50 dollars in 1972 $311.34 dollars today
$100 dollars in 1972 $622.68 dollars today
$500 dollars in 1972 $3,113.40 dollars today
$1,000 dollars in 1972 $6,226.79 dollars today
$5,000 dollars in 1972 $31,133.97 dollars today
$10,000 dollars in 1972 $62,267.94 dollars today
$50,000 dollars in 1972 $311,339.71 dollars today
$100,000 dollars in 1972 $622,679.43 dollars today
$500,000 dollars in 1972 $3,113,397.13 dollars today
$1,000,000 dollars in 1972 $6,226,794.26 dollars today

Inflation by City

Inflation can vary widely by city, even within the United States. Here's how some cities fared in 1972 to 2020 (figures shown are purchasing power equivalents of $20):

San Francisco, California experienced the highest rate of inflation during the 48 years between 1972 and 2020 (4.26%).

Detroit, Michigan experienced the lowest rate of inflation during the 48 years between 1972 and 2020 (3.64%).

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 1972 would be equivalent to £265.63 in 2020, an absolute change of £245.63 and a cumulative change of 1,228.17%.

In Canada, CA$20.00 in 1972 would be equivalent to CA$121.79 in 2020, an absolute change of CA$101.79 and a cumulative change of 508.93%.

Compare these numbers to the US's overall absolute change of $104.54 and total percent change of 522.68%.


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 1972 and 2020.

Compare these values to the overall average of 3.88% per year:

Category Avg Inflation (%) Total Inflation (%) $20 in 1972 → 2020
Food and beverages 3.86 517.00 123.40
Housing 4.10 587.05 137.41
Apparel 1.35 90.09 38.02
Transportation 3.42 402.78 100.56
Medical care 5.63 1,288.63 277.73
Recreation 1.10 68.85 33.77
Education and communication 1.84 139.91 47.98
Other goods and services 4.98 932.79 206.56

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 1972. This table and charts use the earliest available data for each category.



How to Calculate Inflation Rate for $20 since 1972

Our calculations use the following inflation rate formula to calculate the change in value between 1972 and today:

CPI today CPI in 1972
×
1972 USD value
=
Today's value

Then plug in historical CPI values. The U.S. CPI was 41.8 in the year 1972 and 260.28 in 2020:

260.2841.8
×
$20
=
$124.54

$20 in 1972 has the same "purchasing power" or "buying power" as $124.54 in 2020.

To get the total inflation rate for the 48 years between 1972 and 2020, we use the following formula:

CPI in 2020 - CPI in 1972CPI in 1972
×
100
=
Cumulative inflation rate (48 years)

Plugging in the values to this equation, we get:

260.28 - 41.841.8
×
100
=
523%

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 3.83% per year between 1972 and 2020 (vs all-CPI inflation of 3.88%), for an inflation total of 506.51%.

When using the core inflation measurement, $20 in 1972 is equivalent in buying power to $121.30 in 2020, a difference of $101.30. Recall that for All Items, the converted amount is $124.54 with a difference of $104.54.

In 1972, core inflation was 3.06%.


Comparison to S&P 500 Index

The average inflation rate of 3.88% has a compounding effect between 1972 and 2020. As noted above, this yearly inflation rate compounds to produce an overall price difference of 522.68% over 48 years.

To help put this inflation into perspective, if we had invested $20 in the S&P 500 index in 1972, our investment would be nominally worth approximately $2,546.37 in 2020. This is a return on investment of 12,631.85%, with an absolute return of $2,526.37 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 83.94% of returns ($2,137.43) during this period. This means the inflation-adjusted real return of our $20 investment is $388.94. You may also want to account for capital gains tax, which would take your real return down to around $331 for most people.

Investment in S&P 500 Index, 1972-2020
Original Amount Final Amount Change
Nominal $20 $2,546.37 12,631.85%
Real
Inflation Adjusted
$20 $408.94 1,944.69%

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 1972 to latest available data for 2020 using average monthly close price.

For more details on the S&P 500 between 1972 and 2020, see the stock market returns calculator.


News headlines from 1972

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

  • The US's costliest natural disaster, Hurricane Agnes, causes 119 deaths and $3 billion damage.
  • The US Senate,ratifies the first Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
  • A member of the terrorist group Black September kills eleven Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics.
  • Pong, the first commercially successful video game is released by the co-founder of Atari.

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: “$20 in 1972 → 2020 | Inflation Calculator.” Official Inflation Data, Alioth Finance, 21 Oct. 2020, https://www.officialdata.org/1972-dollars-in-2020?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 1972 to 2020
Cumulative price change 522.68%
Average inflation rate 3.88%
Converted amount ($20 base) $124.54
Price difference ($20 base) $104.54
CPI in 1972 41.800
CPI in 2020 260.280
Inflation in 1972 3.21%
Inflation in 2020 1.37%