U.S. inflation rate in 1979: 11.35%

Inflation in 1979 and its effect on dollar value

$1 in 1978 is equivalent in purchasing power to about $1.11 in 1979. The dollar had an average inflation rate of 11.35% per year between 1978 and 1979, producing a cumulative price increase of 11.35%. Purchasing power decreased by 11.35% in 1979 compared to 1978. On average, you would have to spend 11.35% more money in 1979 than in 1978 for the same item.

This means that prices in 1979 are 1.11 times higher than average prices since 1978, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index.

The inflation rate in 1978 was 7.59%. The inflation rate in 1979 was 11.35%. The 1979 inflation rate is higher compared to the average inflation rate of 3.32% per year between 1979 and 2022.

Inflation rate is calculated by change in the consumer price index (CPI). The CPI in 1979 was 72.60. It was 65.20 in the previous year, 1978. The difference in CPI between the years is used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to officially determine inflation.


Inflation from 1978 to 1979
Average inflation rate11.35%
Converted amount ($1 base)$1.11
Price difference ($1 base)$0.11
CPI in 197865.200
CPI in 197972.600
Inflation in 19787.59%
Inflation in 197911.35%
$1 in 1978$1.11 in 1979

Recent USD inflation
Annual Rate, the Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI
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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 1978 to 1979 (figures shown are purchasing power equivalents of $1):

  • Atlanta, Georgia: 10.21% average rate, $1 → $1.10, cumulative change of 10.21%

Atlanta, Georgia experienced the highest rate of inflation during the 1 years between 1978 and 1979 (10.21%).

Atlanta, Georgia experienced the lowest rate of inflation during the 1 years between 1978 and 1979 (10.21%).

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 1978 would be equivalent to £1.13 in 1979, an absolute change of £0.13 and a cumulative change of 13.39%.

In Canada, CA$1.00 in 1978 would be equivalent to CA$1.09 in 1979, an absolute change of CA$0.09 and a cumulative change of 9.14%.

Compare these numbers to the US's overall absolute change of $0.11 and total percent change of 11.35%.


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.

Between 1978 and 1979:

This chart shows the average rate of inflation for select CPI categories between 1978 and 1979.

Compare these values to the overall average of 11.35% per year:

CategoryAvg Inflation (%)Total Inflation (%)$1 in 1978 → 1979
Food and beverages10.7410.741.11
Housing12.2012.201.12
Apparel4.384.381.04
Transportation14.2614.261.14
Medical care9.259.251.09
Recreation0.000.001.00
Education and communication0.000.001.00
Other goods and services7.297.291.07

For all these visualizations, it's important to note that not all categories may have been tracked since 1978. This table and charts use the earliest available data for each category.



How to calculate inflation rate for $1, 1978 to 1979

Our calculations use the following inflation rate formula to calculate the change in value between 1978 and 1979:

CPI in 1979 CPI in 1978
×
1978 USD value
=
1979 USD value

Then plug in historical CPI values. The U.S. CPI was 65.2 in the year 1978 and 72.6 in 1979:

72.665.2
×
$1
=
$1.11

$1 in 1978 has the same "purchasing power" or "buying power" as $1.11 in 1979.

To get the total inflation rate for the 1 years between 1978 and 1979, we use the following formula:

CPI in 1979 - CPI in 1978CPI in 1978
×
100
=
Cumulative inflation rate (1 years)

Plugging in the values to this equation, we get:

72.6 - 65.265.2
×
100
=
11%

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 8.88% per year on average between 1978 and 1979. The total PCE inflation between these dates was 8.88%. In 1978, PCE inflation was 6.96%.

This means that the PCE Index equates $1 in 1978 with $1.09 in 1979, a difference of $0.09. Compare this to the standard CPI measurement, which equates $1 with $1.11. The PCE measured -2.47% 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 9.74% per year between 1978 and 1979 (vs all-CPI inflation of 11.35%), for an inflation total of 9.74%. In 1978, core inflation was 7.31%.

When using the core inflation measurement, $1 in 1978 is equivalent in buying power to $1.10 in 1979, a difference of $0.10. Recall that the converted amount is $1.11 when all items including food and energy are measured.


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 1978, our investment would be nominally worth approximately $1.36 in 1979. This is a return on investment of 36.13%, with an absolute return of $0.36 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 10.19% of returns ($0.14) during this period. This means the inflation-adjusted real return of our $1 investment is $0.22. 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, 1978-1979
Original AmountFinal AmountChange
Nominal$1$1.3636.13%
Real
Inflation Adjusted
$1$1.2222.25%

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 1978 to latest available data for 1979 using average monthly close price.

For more details on the S&P 500 between 1978 and 1979, 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: “Inflation Rate in 1979 | Inflation Calculator.” Official Inflation Data, Alioth Finance, 21 Sep. 2022, https://www.officialdata.org/inflation-rate-in-1979.

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 1978 to 1979
Average inflation rate11.35%
Converted amount ($1 base)$1.11
Price difference ($1 base)$0.11
CPI in 197865.200
CPI in 197972.600
Inflation in 19787.59%
Inflation in 197911.35%
$1 in 1978$1.11 in 1979