$20,000 in 1850 is equivalent in purchasing power to about $701,453.85 today, an increase of $681,453.85 over 171 years. The dollar had an average inflation rate of 2.10% per year between 1850 and today, producing a cumulative price increase of 3,407.27%.

This means that today's prices are 35.07 times higher than average prices since 1850, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index. A dollar today only buys 2.85% of what it could buy back then.

The 1850 inflation rate was 1.30%. The current year-over-year inflation rate (2020 to 2021) is now 5.25%^{1}.
If this number holds, $20,000 today will be equivalent in buying power to $21,050.25 next year.
The current inflation rate page gives more detail on the latest inflation rates.

Contents

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Cumulative price change | 3,407.27% |

Average inflation rate | 2.10% |

Converted amount ($20,000 base) | $701,453.85 |

Price difference ($20,000 base) | $681,453.85 |

CPI in 1850 | 7.800 |

CPI in 2021 | 273.567 |

Inflation in 1850 | 1.30% |

Inflation in 2021 | 5.25% |

$20,000 in 1850 | $701,453.85 in 2021 |

This chart shows a calculation of buying power equivalence for $20,000 in 1850 (price index tracking began in 1635).

For example, if you started with $20,000, you would need to end with $701,453.85 in order to "adjust" for inflation (sometimes refered to as "beating inflation").

When $20,000 is equivalent to $701,453.85 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 1850 dollars, the chart below shows how $20,000 is worth less over 171 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:

This conversion table shows various other 1850 amounts in today's dollars, based on the 3,407.27% change in prices:

Initial value | Equivalent value |
---|---|

$1 dollar in 1850 | $35.07 dollars today |

$5 dollars in 1850 | $175.36 dollars today |

$10 dollars in 1850 | $350.73 dollars today |

$50 dollars in 1850 | $1,753.63 dollars today |

$100 dollars in 1850 | $3,507.27 dollars today |

$500 dollars in 1850 | $17,536.35 dollars today |

$1,000 dollars in 1850 | $35,072.69 dollars today |

$5,000 dollars in 1850 | $175,363.46 dollars today |

$10,000 dollars in 1850 | $350,726.92 dollars today |

$50,000 dollars in 1850 | $1,753,634.62 dollars today |

$100,000 dollars in 1850 | $3,507,269.23 dollars today |

$500,000 dollars in 1850 | $17,536,346.15 dollars today |

$1,000,000 dollars in 1850 | $35,072,692.31 dollars today |

Inflation can also vary widely by country. For comparison, in the UK £20,000.00 in 1850 would be equivalent to £2,761,787.95 in 2021, an absolute change of £2,741,787.95 and a cumulative change of 13,708.94%.

Compare these numbers to the US's overall absolute change of $681,453.85 and total percent change of 3,407.27%.

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 1850 and 2021.

Compare these values to the overall average of 2.10% per year:

Category | Avg Inflation (%) | Total Inflation (%) | $20,000 in 1850 → 2021 |
---|---|---|---|

Food and beverages | 3.88 | 67,097.03 | 13,439,405.07 |

Housing | 4.16 | 106,147.01 | 21,249,402.17 |

Apparel | 1.95 | 2,622.80 | 544,560.53 |

Transportation | 3.26 | 24,170.93 | 4,854,185.85 |

Medical care | 4.69 | 252,002.18 | 50,420,435.87 |

Recreation | 1.13 | 578.65 | 135,729.28 |

Education and communication | 1.83 | 2,113.56 | 442,712.62 |

Other goods and services | 4.94 | 379,497.91 | 75,919,581.81 |

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 1850. This table and charts use the earliest available data for each category.

Our calculations use the following inflation rate formula to calculate the change in value between 1850 and today:

CPI today
CPI in 1850

×

1850 USD value

=

Today's value

Then plug in historical CPI values. The U.S. CPI was 7.8 in the year 1850 and 273.567 in 2021:

273.5677.8

×

$20,000

=

$20,000 in 1850 has the same "purchasing power" or "buying power" as $701,453.85 in 2021.

To get the total inflation rate for the 171 years between 1850 and 2021, we use the following formula:

CPI in 2021 - CPI in 1850CPI in 1850

×

100

=

Plugging in the values to this equation, we get:

273.567 - 7.87.8

×

100

=

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

- The first National Women's Rights Convention takes place in Wocester, Massachusetts.
- The California Exchange is opened.
- Britain blockades Piraeus, a Greek port.
- The HMS Investigator sets sail from Woolwich, England, becoming the first ship to explore the Northwest Passage.

Raw data for these calculations comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index (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: “$20,000 in 1850 → 2021 | Inflation Calculator.” Official Inflation Data, Alioth Finance, 14 Sep. 2021, https://www.officialdata.org/us/inflation/1850?amount=20000.

Special thanks to QuickChart for their chart image API, which is used for chart downloads.

Cumulative price change | 3,407.27% |

Average inflation rate | 2.10% |

Converted amount ($20,000 base) | $701,453.85 |

Price difference ($20,000 base) | $681,453.85 |

CPI in 1850 | 7.800 |

CPI in 2021 | 273.567 |

Inflation in 1850 | 1.30% |

Inflation in 2021 | 5.25% |

$20,000 in 1850 | $701,453.85 in 2021 |