You need to adjust for inflation; this is meaningless otherwise. When you do that, the average income in 1938 becomes $29,008, which is the same as the number you cited for today's. Some things are more expensive (Harvard) but others are cheaper (sugar).

Multiply all the numbers in the chart by 16.8 and then you can compare.

Even adjusted for inflation almost everything is more expensive now than in 1938. By significant margins.
That said, who the hell knows where this information is from.
Does that mean they were adding Vitamin D to milk in 1938?
@ 2, I have a feeling that the cost of a new house today, adjusted for inflation, is still a hell of a lot more than it was in 1938.

It reminds me of the time I saw "Double Indemnity" at the Varsity in the late 90s. There's a line where the narrator is describing a huge house in the Hollywood Hills, marveling that "it must have cost $30,000." Everyone laughed, and that was when median housing prices were about half what they are today.
Gas was only 10 cents a gallon!
@ 5, probably. Processed food (industrially processed food - making that clear just in case Fnarf is reading) was already a thing in the 30s.
@8 I just looked up Vitamin D on the Wikipedia and it seems like they weren't even sure of its chemical structure during the 1930s. Which doesn't mean that they couldn't have been extracting it from some other source.

Just it doesn't seem like a pre-war kind of thing.
@3, this is my point precisely....
Amazing to think that John D. Rockefeller was worth something like $300 million at the time.
@9 A good clue about our lack of knowledge is that the early vitamins were named A, B, C, D. We didn't know anything about them except that they were important for staving off certain conditions like blindness, rickets, and scurvy.

The quote below is from:…

In 1900 around 80 percent of children in Boston had rickets, but that number dropped to almost nothing in the 1930s, according to a Boston University School of Medicine article published in the December 2004 "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition." The small amount of vitamin D added to milk, cereals and orange juice is enough to prevent rickets and other bone disorders...
Wow, a tweet worthy of Fox news

1938 = Depression. As in 19% unemployment rate. As in prices are so low because everyone who hasn't gone bankrupt is teetering on the edge of it.

Lets also remember this is a period of time when every white person in the US had the cost of goods subsidized by the segregation and brutalization of the black populations. Also remember that women are typically barred from any profession higher than secretary or school teacher, and women just 60% of what men earn FOR EQUAL WORK!

Also, want to check out air pollution in those cities?
Vitamins aside it is true that it used to be possible to support a family in this country on a single good middle class income, whereas today it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so with even two middle class incomes.
A couple things to put in perspective...

The US had a very good infrastructure in the 1930s, but it was nothing compare to the infrastructure it build after the Second World War.

It isn't just the prices but the availability of goods, services and education. There were regional markets, not national supermarket chains. Produce, meats, dairy products were produce on a regional scale, not a national scale, with shortages and lack of availability.

The US had an incredible auto industry in the 1930s, but it still wasn't compare to the post WW2 industry.

The US was still in a depression, prices may look low then now, but the availability of work, good wages are of an United States of America that was much different than the US that was transform during and after the Second World War. Ditto there was no GI Education bill that transform the US higher education system.
We can quibble all day about inflation adjustments and comparative costs, but the key takeaway from this is that we're spending a much larger portion of our income for housing and education.
If you look a little deeper and consider the effects of financialization of real estate, it starts to impact a lot of our lives from our increased mortgages and rents, the makeup of our neighborhoods when the existing businesses are kicked out for higher rents, the costs of services at the businesses to cover their rent, etc.
Here's a fun little house price comparison tool, but it only goes back to 1979:…
@9, 12:…

(Full .pdf available from that page.)
Good Morning Charles and Happy May Day (or Law Day in some other parts),
Speaking of Cost of Living, this article in the Seattle Times I found fascinating:…

The NYT actually had a graph of what's more expensive and what's less expensive accompanying the article but I believe you'll get the point.

One thing I do believe, the poor in America do have it well compared to other countries. That said, I still want them to improve.
And gas was under $2/gallon when Obama took office! Let's cherry pick a single data point to draw any conclusion we want!
"Even adjusted for inflation almost everything is more expensive now than in 1938. By significant margins."

Horse shit. TVs, radios, computers, cars, travel are all cheaper in inflation accounted dollars. the poor today have AC, TVs, cars, mobile phones, can fly across the country for $300.
@20: Uhm, what?
One should also remember that tax rates on something like, say, gasoline contribute to a higher modern cost (not that we shouldn't tax the shit out of gasoline, of course).
@16, thank you!
I'm with @!3 - we should not compare the economy at the nadir of a deflationary nightmare with today's economy...although we are as close to that same cyclical phase as we've been since '38.
In almost every measurable way, people, even poor people in the U.S. are much richer than they were in 1938.…
@16, 24 - I don't need to be convinced that rentier economies are bad for real economies, that the financialization of things essential mines our economy of value, just like the IMF/WorldBank facilitates the economic mining of foreign economies for private wealth....

...What I want to know is: What the Fuck Do We Do About It?

Prices aren't going to go down unless we have another catastrophic economic collapse which obliterates asset values. Who wants real collapse & suffering?
Effective legislation against the rentiers isn't going to happen soon enough. The politicians won't cross their friend$.

So what do we do? I don't need more education, I want action.
No answers.

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