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The cost of goods the year you were born

  • The cost of goods the year you were born

    Do you splurge on bacon or hair dye? Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, did you just head to the movies or the bar? For as long as money’s been made, Americans have had to make choices on how to spend their hard-earned dollars.

    Some years the choices have been easier than others with prices low and income high. Others, having to decide between transportation or housing seemed a bit more dire as the economy suffered and prices soared.

    With the coronavirus wreaking havoc across the globe, Americans have been feeling the pinch not only in their paychecks, but their wallets, as the pandemic’s disruptions on the economy have caused an increase in the price of goods. The food at home price index, which includes the cost of items such as cereal, meats, fruits and vegetables, and nonalcoholic beverages, increased 4.3% from March 2020 to June 2020, after rising only 1.1% over the previous 12 months.

    With millions of Americans out of work, underemployed, or laid off, the road to economic recovery will be a long one. But this isn’t the first time the American economy has been shattered by a crisis. Wars, extreme weather, political unrest, and more, have all affected the cost of goods and how Americans have spent their money.

    Stacker took a look at historic average pricing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Consumer Price Index to find what a sample basket of food cost from 1930 to 2020, including prices for fresh eggs, white bread, sliced bacon, round steak, potatoes, and milk. Inflation-adjusted prices are also included, to see how prices really compare to today. The data for 2020 was released on Oct. 29 and includes the average pricing through September 2020, the most current data available on the index.

    Keep reading to discover how much basic goods cost in the year you were born and how world events have affected consumer spending habits.

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  • 1930

    - Fresh eggs (1 dozen): $0.45 ($7.01 in today’s dollars)
    - White bread (1 pound): $0.09 ($1.40 in today’s dollars)
    - Sliced bacon (1 pound): $0.43 ($6.70 in today’s dollars)
    - Round steak (1 pound): $0.43 ($6.70 in today’s dollars)
    - Potatoes (10 pounds): $0.86 ($13.40 in today’s dollars)
    - Fresh delivered milk (1/2 gallon): $0.28 ($4.36 in today’s dollars)

    Coming off a stock market crash the previous year, the nation was plagued by economic peril. By March 1930, more than 3.2 million people were unemployed. In an effort to protect American businesses and farmers, President Herbert Hoover signed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, which raised taxes on imports. Foreign governments contested the legislation, leading to a decrease in foreign trade and weakening of the foreign economy. Hurting the American economy even further was a banking panic—a loss of confidence in the security of banks, resulting in people withdrawing their money in large numbers.

  • 1931

    - Fresh eggs (1 dozen): $0.35 ($5.99 in today’s dollars)
    - White bread (1 pound): $0.08 ($1.37 in today’s dollars)
    - Sliced bacon (1 pound): $0.37 ($6.34 in today’s dollars)
    - Round steak (1 pound): $0.35 ($5.99 in today’s dollars)
    - Potatoes (10 pounds): $0.24 ($4.11 in today’s dollars)
    - Fresh delivered milk (1/2 gallon): $0.26 ($4.45 in today’s dollars)

    Food marches and riots occurred across the country, as did two more banking panics. People became increasingly frustrated with the lack of federal aid, and homeless families began to live in shelters in communities called “Hoovervilles.” The tumultuous year was capped off by the collapse of the Bank of the United States, the largest single bank failure in the country’s history.

  • 1932

    - Fresh eggs (1 dozen): $0.30 ($5.70 in today’s dollars)
    - White bread (1 pound): $0.07 ($1.33 in today’s dollars)
    - Sliced bacon (1 pound): $0.24 ($4.56 in today’s dollars)
    - Round steak (1 pound): $0.30 ($5.70 in today’s dollars)
    - Potatoes (10 pounds): $0.17 ($3.23 in today’s dollars)
    - Fresh delivered milk (1/2 gallon): $0.21 ($3.99 in today’s dollars)

    Federal aid finally came through with the formation of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, which offered financial assistance to railroads, banks, and business corporations, later expanding to include agriculture, and state and local public works. President Hoover’s attempts to help the millions in need came a little too late however, as he lost to Democratic challenger Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the November elections.

  • 1933

    - Fresh eggs (1 dozen): $0.29 ($5.81 in today’s dollars)
    - White bread (1 pound): $0.07 ($1.40 in today’s dollars)
    - Sliced bacon (1 pound): $0.23 ($4.60 in today’s dollars)
    - Round steak (1 pound): $0.26 ($5.21 in today’s dollars)
    - Potatoes (10 pounds): $0.23 ($4.60 in today’s dollars)
    - Fresh delivered milk (1/2 gallon): $0.21 ($4.20 in today’s dollars)

    With 13 million people unemployed and banks in crisis, Franklin Delano Roosevelt had his work cut out for him when he was inaugurated in March 1933. One of his first acts as president was closing all the banks for several days until they were found to be financially secure, giving Congress time to put together the Emergency Banking Act and effectively restoring the public’s faith in banks. Under FDR’s New Deal, Congress also put together several other programs intended to bolster the economy and create jobs, such as the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Civil Works Administration.

  • 1934

    - Fresh eggs (1 dozen): $0.33 ($6.41 in today’s dollars)
    - White bread (1 pound): $0.08 ($1.55 in today’s dollars)
    - Sliced bacon (1 pound): $0.29 ($5.63 in today’s dollars)
    - Round steak (1 pound): $0.28 ($5.44 in today’s dollars)
    - Potatoes (10 pounds): $0.23 ($4.47 in today’s dollars)
    - Fresh delivered milk (1/2 gallon): $0.22 ($4.27 in today’s dollars)

    Thanks to the implementation of New Deal programs, the economy began to grow, swelling to 10.8%, while unemployment fell to 21.7%. The price of goods also increased 1.5%.

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  • 1935

    - Fresh eggs (1 dozen): $0.38 ($7.22 in today’s dollars)
    - White bread (1 pound): $0.08 ($1.52 in today’s dollars)
    - Sliced bacon (1 pound): $0.41 ($7.79 in today’s dollars)
    - Round steak (1 pound): $0.36 ($6.84 in today’s dollars)
    - Potatoes (10 pounds): $0.19 ($3.61 in today’s dollars)
    - Fresh delivered milk (1/2 gallon): $0.23 ($4.37 in today’s dollars)

    The Social Security Act was passed by President Roosevelt in August, providing financial assistance to senior citizens, the disabled, and children in low-income families, as well as retired workers 65 and older. Meanwhile, unemployment throughout the country continued to decrease, falling to 20.1%, while the economy grew 8.9%.

  • 1936

    - Fresh eggs (1 dozen): $0.37 ($6.93 in today’s dollars)
    - White bread (1 pound): $0.08 ($1.50 in today’s dollars)
    - Sliced bacon (1 pound): $0.41 ($7.68 in today’s dollars)
    - Round steak (1 pound): $0.34 ($6.37 in today’s dollars)
    - Potatoes (10 pounds): $0.32 ($5.99 in today’s dollars)
    - Fresh delivered milk (1/2 gallon): $0.24 ($4.49 in today’s dollars)

    More federal programs were created to help the poor, unemployed and farmers, including the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act and the Rural Electrification Act, which provided help in bringing electricity to rural areas of the country. As unemployment continued to shrink, coming down to 16.9%, FDR was elected to a second term as president.

  • 1937

    - Fresh eggs (1 dozen): $0.36 ($6.51 in today’s dollars)
    - White bread (1 pound): $0.09 ($1.63 in today’s dollars)
    - Sliced bacon (1 pound): $0.41 ($7.41 in today’s dollars)
    - Round steak (1 pound): $0.39 ($7.05 in today’s dollars)
    - Potatoes (10 pounds): $0.28 ($5.06 in today’s dollars)
    - Fresh delivered milk (1/2 gallon): $0.25 ($4.52 in today’s dollars)

    The economic recovery bolstered by the New Deal took a hit as unemployment increased to 20% and industrial production fell 32%. The stock market crashed again, with businesses blaming New Deal initiatives and the government blaming a lack of investment on the part of the businesses.

  • 1938

    - Fresh eggs (1 dozen): $0.37 ($6.83 in today’s dollars)
    - White bread (1 pound): $0.09 ($1.66 in today’s dollars)
    - Sliced bacon (1 pound): $0.37 ($6.83 in today’s dollars)
    - Round steak (1 pound): $0.35 ($6.46 in today’s dollars)
    - Potatoes (10 pounds): $0.21 ($3.88 in today’s dollars)
    - Fresh delivered milk (1/2 gallon): $0.25 ($4.61 in today’s dollars)

    At the president’s request, Congress approved $3.75 billion in federal spending to jump-start the economy in April. By June, the economy had begun to grow again, but unemployment for the year remained high at 19%.

  • 1939

    - Fresh eggs (1 dozen): $0.32 ($5.99 in today’s dollars)
    - White bread (1 pound): $0.08 ($1.50 in today’s dollars)
    - Sliced bacon (1 pound): $0.32 ($5.99 in today’s dollars)
    - Round steak (1 pound): $0.36 ($6.74 in today’s dollars)
    - Potatoes (10 pounds): $0.25 ($4.68 in today’s dollars)
    - Fresh delivered milk (1/2 gallon): $0.24 ($4.49 in today’s dollars)

    The Reorganization Act of 1939 created the Federal Security Agency, tasked with improving social services like employment, education, and financial security. The agency had a special focus on advancing the economic status of African Americans, providing them job training opportunities and advocating for their inclusion in social safety net programs. Meanwhile, overseas, Adolf Hitler had invaded Poland, marking the start of World War II.

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