1915 vs. 2015: How Do They Compare?
Think things are not so great in 2015? Let's take a look at 100 years ago.
According to U.S News and World Report, Census Bureau data shows the median household income, measured from 2009 to 2013 (the most recent data available), is $53,046. Back in 1915, two years after the federal income tax came on the scene, you were doing about average if you were making $687 a year, according to the Census. That is, if you were a man. If you were a woman, cut that number by about half. If you were a woman you made about $6 per week. You paid mom and dad $2.50 a week for room and board. After your other weekly expenses, you had about 40 cents for clothes and amusements.
A median house costs a little over $177,000 now. In 1915, it was $3,200. And there was no homeowners insurance yet. Your house could be in a bad spot, with bad materials, insulated by asbestos.
Cars average a little over $31,000 now. Back then, a car cost $2,005, which translates to over $46,000 today. Gas in 1915 was only available at the drug store in most places. It was 15 cents a gallon in 1915.
Buying your lunch costs about 15 cents. According to statistics from the Census Bureau, typical prices for 1915 food include:
- a loaf of bread: 7 cents
- a dozen eggs: 34 cents
- a quart of milk: 9 cents
- a pound of steak: 26 cents
Most movies cost 10-15 cents. Clothing was a big-ticket item and they wore a lot of it. Women's shoes cost $7-$10 dollars ($163-$233 in today's money).
If you were the just-getting-by family, here is what you spent.
- $28 a month for food.
- $4 for utilities, including fuel, light and ice for the icebox (which people used before electric refrigerators).
- $1 for insurance, presumably life insurance.
- $1.50 a month for streetcars.
- $9 a month for everyone's clothing needs.
- $1 a month for general household expenses, which would be $23.38 today.
We still today have to decide where the money goes. Some things never change, I guess.