$100 in 1971 is worth $642.67 today

Why a dollar today is worth only 16% of a dollar in 1971

Updated: October 13, 2020

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index, today's prices in 2020 are 542.67% higher than average prices since 1971. This means that a dollar today only buys 15.56% of what it could buy in 1971. The U.S. dollar experienced an average inflation rate of 3.87% per year during this period, causing the real value of a dollar to decrease.

In other words, $100 in 1971 is equivalent in purchasing power to about $642.67 in 2020, a difference of $542.67 over 49 years.

The 1971 inflation rate was 4.38%. The current year-over-year inflation rate (2019 to 2020) is now 1.37%1. If this number holds, $100 today will be equivalent in buying power to $101.37 next year. The current inflation rate page gives more detail on the latest official inflation rates.


Inflation from 1971 to 2020
Cumulative price change 542.67%
Average inflation rate 3.87%
Converted amount ($100 base) $642.67
Price difference ($100 base) $542.67
CPI in 1971 40.500
CPI in 2020 260.280
Inflation in 1971 4.38%
Inflation in 2020 1.37%

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

Buying power of $100 in 1971

This chart shows a calculation of buying power equivalence for $100 in 1971 (price index tracking began in 1635).

For example, if you started with $100, you would need to end with $642.67 in order to "adjust" for inflation (sometimes refered to as "beating inflation").

When $100 is equivalent to $642.67 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 1971 dollars, the chart below shows how $100 is worth less over 49 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: 1971-2020
Year Dollar Value Inflation Rate
1971 $100.00 4.38%
1972 $103.21 3.21%
1973 $109.63 6.22%
1974 $121.73 11.04%
1975 $132.84 9.13%
1976 $140.49 5.76%
1977 $149.63 6.50%
1978 $160.99 7.59%
1979 $179.26 11.35%
1980 $203.46 13.50%
1981 $224.44 10.32%
1982 $238.27 6.16%
1983 $245.93 3.21%
1984 $256.54 4.32%
1985 $265.68 3.56%
1986 $270.62 1.86%
1987 $280.49 3.65%
1988 $292.10 4.14%
1989 $306.17 4.82%
1990 $322.72 5.40%
1991 $336.30 4.21%
1992 $346.42 3.01%
1993 $356.79 2.99%
1994 $365.93 2.56%
1995 $376.30 2.83%
1996 $387.41 2.95%
1997 $396.30 2.29%
1998 $402.47 1.56%
1999 $411.36 2.21%
2000 $425.19 3.36%
2001 $437.28 2.85%
2002 $444.20 1.58%
2003 $454.32 2.28%
2004 $466.42 2.66%
2005 $482.22 3.39%
2006 $497.78 3.23%
2007 $511.96 2.85%
2008 $531.61 3.84%
2009 $529.72 -0.36%
2010 $538.41 1.64%
2011 $555.40 3.16%
2012 $566.90 2.07%
2013 $575.20 1.46%
2014 $584.53 1.62%
2015 $585.23 0.12%
2016 $592.61 1.26%
2017 $605.23 2.13%
2018 $620.32 2.49%
2019 $631.25 1.76%
2020 $642.67 1.81%*
* Compared to previous annual rate. Not final. See inflation summary for latest 12-month trailing value.
Click to show 43 more rows

This conversion table shows various other 1971 amounts in today's dollars, based on the 542.67% change in prices:

Conversion Table: Value of a dollar today
Initial value Equivalent value
$1 dollar in 1971 $6.43 dollars today
$5 dollars in 1971 $32.13 dollars today
$10 dollars in 1971 $64.27 dollars today
$50 dollars in 1971 $321.33 dollars today
$100 dollars in 1971 $642.67 dollars today
$500 dollars in 1971 $3,213.33 dollars today
$1,000 dollars in 1971 $6,426.67 dollars today
$5,000 dollars in 1971 $32,133.33 dollars today
$10,000 dollars in 1971 $64,266.67 dollars today
$50,000 dollars in 1971 $321,333.33 dollars today
$100,000 dollars in 1971 $642,666.67 dollars today
$500,000 dollars in 1971 $3,213,333.33 dollars today
$1,000,000 dollars in 1971 $6,426,666.67 dollars today

Inflation by City

Inflation can vary widely by city, even within the United States. Here's how some cities fared in 1971 to 2020 (figures shown are purchasing power equivalents of $100):

San Francisco, California experienced the highest rate of inflation during the 49 years between 1971 and 2020 (4.25%).

Detroit, Michigan experienced the lowest rate of inflation during the 49 years between 1971 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 £100.00 in 1971 would be equivalent to £1,422.80 in 2020, an absolute change of £1,322.80 and a cumulative change of 1,322.80%.

In Canada, CA$100.00 in 1971 would be equivalent to CA$640.38 in 2020, an absolute change of CA$540.38 and a cumulative change of 540.38%.

Compare these numbers to the US's overall absolute change of $542.67 and total percent change of 542.67%.


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 1971 and 2020.

Compare these values to the overall average of 3.87% per year:

Category Avg Inflation (%) Total Inflation (%) $100 in 1971 → 2020
Food and beverages 3.87 542.35 642.35
Housing 4.09 613.73 713.73
Apparel 1.36 94.01 194.01
Transportation 3.38 408.66 508.66
Medical care 5.59 1,334.42 1,434.42
Recreation 1.10 70.71 170.71
Education and communication 1.84 144.32 244.32
Other goods and services 4.97 975.92 1,075.92

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 1971. This table and charts use the earliest available data for each category.



How to Calculate Inflation Rate for $100 since 1971

Our calculations use the following inflation rate formula to calculate the change in value between 1971 and today:

CPI today CPI in 1971
×
1971 USD value
=
Today's value

Then plug in historical CPI values. The U.S. CPI was 40.5 in the year 1971 and 260.28 in 2020:

260.2840.5
×
$100
=
$642.67

$100 in 1971 has the same "purchasing power" or "buying power" as $642.67 in 2020.

To get the total inflation rate for the 49 years between 1971 and 2020, we use the following formula:

CPI in 2020 - CPI in 1971CPI in 1971
×
100
=
Cumulative inflation rate (49 years)

Plugging in the values to this equation, we get:

260.28 - 40.540.5
×
100
=
543%

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 3.81% per year between 1971 and 2020 (vs all-CPI inflation of 3.87%), for an inflation total of 525.06%.

When using the core inflation measurement, $100 in 1971 is equivalent in buying power to $625.06 in 2020, a difference of $525.06. Recall that for All Items, the converted amount is $642.67 with a difference of $542.67.

In 1971, core inflation was 4.69%.


Comparison to S&P 500 Index

The average inflation rate of 3.87% has a compounding effect between 1971 and 2020. As noted above, this yearly inflation rate compounds to produce an overall price difference of 542.67% over 49 years.

To help put this inflation into perspective, if we had invested $100 in the S&P 500 index in 1971, our investment would be nominally worth approximately $14,514.35 in 2020. This is a return on investment of 14,414.35%, with an absolute return of $14,414.35 on top of the original $100.

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 84.44% of returns ($12,255.89) during this period. This means the inflation-adjusted real return of our $100 investment is $2,158.46. You may also want to account for capital gains tax, which would take your real return down to around $1,835 for most people.

Investment in S&P 500 Index, 1971-2020
Original Amount Final Amount Change
Nominal $100 $14,514.35 14,414.35%
Real
Inflation Adjusted
$100 $2,258.46 2,158.46%

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 1971 to latest available data for 2020 using average monthly close price.

For more details on the S&P 500 between 1971 and 2020, see the stock market returns calculator.


News headlines from 1971

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

  • Idi Amin declares himself president of Uganda.
  • The Nasdaq Composite stock market index debuts with fifty companies and a starting value of 100.
  • Indian troops, aided by Bengali guerrillas under Mukti Bahini, are victorious over the Pakistan army, in the battle of Garibpur.

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: “Value of 1971 dollars today | Inflation Calculator.” Official Inflation Data, Alioth Finance, 13 Oct. 2020, https://www.officialdata.org/us/inflation/1971.

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 1971 to 2020
Cumulative price change 542.67%
Average inflation rate 3.87%
Converted amount ($100 base) $642.67
Price difference ($100 base) $542.67
CPI in 1971 40.500
CPI in 2020 260.280
Inflation in 1971 4.38%
Inflation in 2020 1.37%