U.S. inflation rate in 1981: 10.32%

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Inflation since 1981 and its effect on dollar value

The consumer price index (CPI) in 1981 was 90.9. It was 82.4 in the previous year. This change in CPI is used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to calculate inflation.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index, the dollar experienced an average inflation rate of 2.79% per year. Prices in 2018 are 176.8% higher than prices in 1981.

In other words, $100 in 1981 is equivalent in purchasing power to $276.78 in 2018, a difference of $176.78 over 37 years.

The current inflation rate is now 2.80%1. If this number holds, $100 today will be equivalent to $102.80 next year. The current inflation rate page gives more detail on the latest official inflation rates.

Inflation from 1981 to 2018
Cumulative price change 176.78%
Average inflation rate 2.79%
Converted amount ($100 base) $276.78
Price difference ($100 base) $176.78
CPI in 1981 90.9
CPI in 2018 251.59


U.S. inflation from 1913 to 2018


Inflation rates for specific categories

Indoor plants and flowers · Frankfurters · Dental services · More

Inflation-adjusted measures

S&P 500 price · S&P 500 earnings · Shiller P/E

How to calculate the inflation rate for $100 since 1981

This inflation calculator uses the following inflation rate formula:

CPI in 2018 / CPI in 1981 * 1981 USD value = 2018 USD value

Then plug in historical CPI values. The U.S. CPI was 90.9 in the year 1981 and 251.59 in 2018:

251.59 / 90.9 * $100 = $276.78

$100 in 1981 has the same "purchasing power" or "buying power" as $276.78 in 2018.


Here are calculations of buying power over time for $100 in 1981 (price index tracking began in 1913). Each of these USD amounts below is equivalent in terms of what it could buy at the time:
Year USD Value Inflation Rate
1981 $100.00 10.32%
1982 $106.16 6.16%
1983 $109.57 3.21%
1984 $114.30 4.32%
1985 $118.37 3.56%
1986 $120.57 1.86%
1987 $124.97 3.65%
1988 $130.14 4.14%
1989 $136.41 4.82%
1990 $143.78 5.40%
1991 $149.83 4.21%
1992 $154.35 3.01%
1993 $158.97 2.99%
1994 $163.04 2.56%
1995 $167.66 2.83%
1996 $172.61 2.95%
1997 $176.57 2.29%
1998 $179.32 1.56%
1999 $183.28 2.21%
2000 $189.44 3.36%
2001 $194.83 2.85%
2002 $197.91 1.58%
2003 $202.42 2.28%
2004 $207.81 2.66%
2005 $214.85 3.39%
2006 $221.78 3.23%
2007 $228.10 2.85%
2008 $236.86 3.84%
2009 $236.01 -0.36%
2010 $239.89 1.64%
2011 $247.46 3.16%
2012 $252.58 2.07%
2013 $256.28 1.46%
2014 $260.44 1.62%
2015 $260.74 0.12%
2016 $264.03 1.26%
2017 $269.29 1.99%
2018 $276.78 2.78%*
* Not final. See inflation summary for latest details.

News headlines from 1981

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

  • Ronald Reagan is inaugurated as the President of the United States.
  • IBM introduces its first PC - Personal Computer.
  • United States Center for Disease Control reports that pneumonia is affecting five homosexual men in Los Angeles, which marks the beginning of the AIDS epidemic.

Inflation Data Source

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 1981 | Inflation Calculator.” U.S. Official Inflation Data, Alioth Finance, 20 Jun. 2018, https://www.officialdata.org/inflation-rate-in-1981.


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