U.S. inflation rate in 1979: 11.35%

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U.S. inflation rate in 1979: 11.35%

Inflation in 1979 and Its Effect on Dollar Value

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.

In other words, $1 in 1978 is equivalent in purchasing power to about $1.11 in 1979.

The 1978 inflation rate was 7.59%. The inflation rate in 1979 was 11.35%. The 1979 inflation rate is higher compared to the average inflation rate of 3.21% per year between 1979 and 2019.

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 rate 11.35%
Converted amount ($1 base) $1.11
Price difference ($1 base) $0.11
CPI in 1978 65.200
CPI in 1979 72.600
Inflation in 1978 7.59%
Inflation in 1979 11.35%

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

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):

Houston, Texas experienced the highest rate of inflation during the 1 years between 1978 and 1979 (13.28%).

San Francisco, California experienced the lowest rate of inflation during the 1 years between 1978 and 1979 (8.21%).

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$1.10 in 1979, an absolute change of CA$0.10 and a cumulative change of 9.76%.

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. 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:

Category Avg Inflation (%) Total Inflation (%) $1 in 1978 → 1979
Food and beverages 10.74 10.74 1.11
Housing 12.20 12.20 1.12
Apparel 4.38 4.38 1.04
Transportation 14.26 14.26 1.14
Medical care 9.27 9.27 1.09
Recreation 0.00 0.00 1.00
Education and communication 0.00 0.00 1.00
Other goods and services 7.29 7.29 1.07

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

This inflation calculator uses the following inflation rate formula:

CPI in 1979CPI 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

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 9.74% per year between 1978 and 1979 (vs all-CPI inflation of 11.35%), for an inflation total of 9.74%.

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 for All Items, the converted amount is $1.11 with a difference of $0.11.

In 1978, core inflation was 7.31%.


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 Amount Final Amount Change
Nominal $1 $1.36 36.13%
Real
Inflation Adjusted
$1 $1.22 22.25%

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.

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 1979 | Inflation Calculator.” U.S. Official Inflation Data, Alioth Finance, 12 Dec. 2019, https://www.officialdata.org/inflation-rate-in-1979.

Special thanks to QuickChart for providing downloadable chart images.

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


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 rate 11.35%
Converted amount ($1 base) $1.11
Price difference ($1 base) $0.11
CPI in 1978 65.200
CPI in 1979 72.600
Inflation in 1978 7.59%
Inflation in 1979 11.35%