U.S. inflation rate in 1991: 4.21%

Inflation in 1991 and its effect on dollar value

$1 in 1990 is equivalent in purchasing power to about $1.04 in 1991. The dollar had an average inflation rate of 4.21% per year between 1990 and 1991, producing a cumulative price increase of 4.21%. Purchasing power decreased by 4.21% in 1991 compared to 1990. On average, you would have to spend 4.21% more money in 1991 than in 1990 for the same item.

This means that prices in 1991 are 1.04 times higher than average prices since 1990, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index.

The 1990 inflation rate was 5.40%. The inflation rate in 1991 was 4.21%. The 1991 inflation rate is higher compared to the average inflation rate of 2.30% per year between 1991 and 2021.

Inflation rate is calculated by change in the consumer price index (CPI). The CPI in 1991 was 136.20. It was 130.70 in the previous year, 1990. The difference in CPI between the years is used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to officially determine inflation.

Inflation from 1990 to 1991
Average inflation rate 4.21%
Converted amount ($1 base) $1.04
Price difference ($1 base) $0.04
CPI in 1990 130.700
CPI in 1991 136.200
Inflation in 1990 5.40%
Inflation in 1991 4.21%
$1 in 1990 $1.04 in 1991

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

Inflation by City

Inflation can vary widely by city, even within the United States. Here's how some cities fared in 1990 to 1991 (figures shown are purchasing power equivalents of $1):

Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas experienced the highest rate of inflation during the 1 years between 1990 and 1991 (4.68%).

Atlanta, Georgia experienced the lowest rate of inflation during the 1 years between 1990 and 1991 (0.00%).

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 1990 would be equivalent to £1.06 in 1991, an absolute change of £0.06 and a cumulative change of 5.87%.

In Canada, CA$1.00 in 1990 would be equivalent to CA$1.04 in 1991, an absolute change of CA$0.04 and a cumulative change of 3.75%.

Compare these numbers to the US's overall absolute change of $0.04 and total percent change of 4.21%.

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 1990 and 1991.

Compare these values to the overall average of 4.21% per year:

Category Avg Inflation (%) Total Inflation (%) $1 in 1990 → 1991
Food and beverages 3.56 3.56 1.04
Housing 3.95 3.95 1.04
Apparel 3.73 3.73 1.04
Transportation 2.75 2.75 1.03
Medical care 8.73 8.73 1.09
Recreation 0.00 0.00 1.00
Education and communication 0.00 0.00 1.00
Other goods and services 7.95 7.95 1.08

For all these visualizations, it's important to note that not all categories may have been tracked since 1990. This table and charts use the earliest available data for each category.

How to Calculate Inflation Rate for $1, 1990 to 1991

Our calculations use the following inflation rate formula to calculate the change in value between 1990 and 1991:

CPI in 1991 CPI in 1990
1990 USD value
1991 USD value

Then plug in historical CPI values. The U.S. CPI was 130.7 in the year 1990 and 136.2 in 1991:


$1 in 1990 has the same "purchasing power" or "buying power" as $1.04 in 1991.

To get the total inflation rate for the 1 years between 1990 and 1991, we use the following formula:

CPI in 1991 - CPI in 1990CPI in 1990
Cumulative inflation rate (1 years)

Plugging in the values to this equation, we get:

136.2 - 130.7130.7

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 4.91% per year between 1990 and 1991 (vs all-CPI inflation of 4.21%), for an inflation total of 4.91%.

When using the core inflation measurement, $1 in 1990 is equivalent in buying power to $1.05 in 1991, a difference of $0.05. Recall that for All Items, the converted amount is $1.04 with a difference of $0.04.

In 1990, core inflation was 5.03%.

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 1990, our investment would be nominally worth approximately $1.31 in 1991. This is a return on investment of 30.83%, with an absolute return of $0.31 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 4.04% of returns ($0.05) during this period. This means the inflation-adjusted real return of our $1 investment is $0.26. 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, 1990-1991
Original Amount Final Amount Change
Nominal $1 $1.31 30.83%
Inflation Adjusted
$1 $1.26 25.55%

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 1990 to latest available data for 1991 using average monthly close price.

For more details on the S&P 500 between 1990 and 1991, see the stock market returns calculator.

News headlines from 1990

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

  • Nelson Mandela is released having spent 27 years in South African prison.
  • The Hubble Space Telescope takes its first photos from space.
  • Dr Penny Jamieson, becomes the first woman to be made an Anglican Bishop, in New Zeeland
  • The United States sends troops to Saudi Arabia, marking the beginning of Operation Desert Shield.

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 1991 | Inflation Calculator.” Official Inflation Data, Alioth Finance, 13 Jun. 2021, https://www.officialdata.org/inflation-rate-in-1991.

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 1990 to 1991
Average inflation rate 4.21%
Converted amount ($1 base) $1.04
Price difference ($1 base) $0.04
CPI in 1990 130.700
CPI in 1991 136.200
Inflation in 1990 5.40%
Inflation in 1991 4.21%
$1 in 1990 $1.04 in 1991