U.S. inflation rate in 1903: 2.33%

Inflation in 1903 and its effect on dollar value

Purchasing power decreased by 2.33% in 1903 compared to 1902. On average, you would have to spend 2.33% more money in 1903 than in 1902 for the same item.

In other words, $1 in 1902 is equivalent in purchasing power to about $1.02 in 1903.

The 1902 inflation rate was 1.18%. The inflation rate in 1903 was 2.33%. The 1903 inflation rate is lower compared to the average inflation rate of 2.92% per year between 1903 and 2020.

Inflation rate is calculated by change in the consumer price index (CPI). The CPI in 1903 was 8.80. It was 8.60 in the previous year, 1902. The difference in CPI between the years is used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to officially determine inflation.

Inflation from 1902 to 1903
Average inflation rate 2.33%
Converted amount ($1 base) $1.02
Price difference ($1 base) $0.02
CPI in 1902 8.600
CPI in 1903 8.800
Inflation in 1902 1.18%
Inflation in 1903 2.33%

USD Inflation since 1635
Annual Rate, the Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI

Inflation by Country

Inflation can also vary widely by country. For comparison, in the UK £1.00 in 1902 would be equivalent to £1.01 in 1903, an absolute change of £0.01 and a cumulative change of 1.09%.

Compare these numbers to the US's overall absolute change of $0.02 and total percent change of 2.33%.

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 1902 and 1903.

Compare these values to the overall average of 2.33% per year:

Category Avg Inflation (%) Total Inflation (%) $1 in 1902 → 1903
Food and beverages 0.00 0.00 1.00
Housing 0.00 0.00 1.00
Apparel 0.00 0.00 1.00
Transportation 0.00 0.00 1.00
Medical care 0.00 0.00 1.00
Recreation 0.00 0.00 1.00
Education and communication 0.00 0.00 1.00
Other goods and services 0.00 0.00 1.00

For all these visualizations, it's important to note that not all categories may have been tracked since 1902. This table and charts use the earliest available data for each category.

How to Calculate Inflation Rate for $1, 1902 to 1903

Our calculations use the following inflation rate formula to calculate the change in value between 1902 and 1903:

CPI in 1903 CPI in 1902
1902 USD value
1903 USD value

Then plug in historical CPI values. The U.S. CPI was 8.6 in the year 1902 and 8.8 in 1903:


$1 in 1902 has the same "purchasing power" or "buying power" as $1.02 in 1903.

To get the total inflation rate for the 1 years between 1902 and 1903, we use the following formula:

CPI in 1903 - CPI in 1902CPI in 1902
Cumulative inflation rate (1 years)

Plugging in the values to this equation, we get:

8.8 - 8.68.6

Comparison to S&P 500 Index

To help put this inflation into perspective, if we had invested $1 in the S&P 500 index in 1902, our investment would be nominally worth approximately $0.90 in 1903. This is a return on investment of -10.24%, with an absolute return of $-0.10 on top of the original $1.

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 2.27% of returns ($0.02) during this period. This means the inflation-adjusted real return of our $1 investment is $-0.12. You may also want to account for capital gains tax, which would take your real return down to around $0 for most people.

Investment in S&P 500 Index, 1902-1903
Original Amount Final Amount Change
Nominal $1 $0.90 -10.24%
Inflation Adjusted
$1 $0.88 -12.28%

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 1902 to latest available data for 1903 using average monthly close price.

For more details on the S&P 500 between 1902 and 1903, 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 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: “Inflation Rate in 1903 | Inflation Calculator.” Official Inflation Data, Alioth Finance, 8 Jul. 2020, https://www.officialdata.org/inflation-rate-in-1903.

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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Inflation from 1902 to 1903
Average inflation rate 2.33%
Converted amount ($1 base) $1.02
Price difference ($1 base) $0.02
CPI in 1902 8.600
CPI in 1903 8.800
Inflation in 1902 1.18%
Inflation in 1903 2.33%