Examining the cost of living in the US in 1957, it’s tempting to conclude things cost less. But various factors contributed to the cost of living in the US in 1957. And many more affected the rise in prices between then and now.
So, just how much was the cost of living in the US in 1957? From the cost of a loaf of bread to the 1957 Chevy Bel Air, here’s how much things cost in 1957.
The Cost of Living in the US 1957
To fully understand the cost of living in 1957, it’s helpful to understand how the year’s typical prices translate into modern money. While the figures might look insubstantial these days, anyone balancing books in 1957 doubtless felt the weight of the price of eggs, just as we do now.
The steady rise of inflation has meant that prices have risen over time. However, what does that mean for the cost of living in the US since 1957?
Since 1957, the cost of living in the US has increased by almost 844%. That makes comparing prices something of an apples and oranges comparison. Still, the best way to calculate price conversion between the cost of living in the US in 1957 and today is to use a complex interest formula.
This gives you:
- Future value
- Current value
- Number of times interest is compounded
- Interest rate/rate of inflation
If that looks daunting, remember that $1 in 1957 is worth roughly $9.44 today.
Even with the cost of inflation and monetary discrepancies explained, there are still other contributing factors to consider when assessing the cost of living in the US in 1957.
Notably, the cost of living created by race, ethnicity, and gender was higher in 1957 than today. Likewise, the positions available to different people were equally restrictive.
With that in mind, we took a look at the cost of living in 1957 and compiled a list of some of the figures our research turned up. While they must have seemed extortionate at the time, we think they’ll bring a smile to your face. Or perhaps even have you want to reach for a time machine.
The Cost of Food in 1957
As time moves forward, it’s not unusual to hear complaints about growing consumerism. This is especially true when it comes to food and our consumption of it. Yet, interest in what we eat and how much we spend on it didn’t develop overnight.
Here’s a look at the cost of some of America’s favorite foods in 1957.
The cost of a can of coke in 1957 was 5¢. Surprisingly, it managed to stay at 5¢ until the 1970s. However, this was only because the machines designed to dispense coke bottles for years would only accept nickels from buyers.
Likewise, the cost of a candy bar in 1957 was approximately 5¢. Unlike coke, however, not even vending machines could fix the price of a candy bar after 1957. As with many goods and foodstuffs, the 1957 price of a candy bar has steadily risen.
And if a nickel felt extravagant, it paled in comparison to the cost of a loaf of bread in 1957 as that would set you back $0.19¢.
By comparison, Burger King’s debuting specialty, the Whopper, cost a shocking 37¢. Sure, that might look like a drop in the ocean, but remember, $1 in 1957 was the equivalent to almost $10 today.
The Cost of Entertainment in 1957
Food wasn’t the only thing to contribute to the cost of living in the US in 1957. The cinema was increasingly popular, and baseball had taken America by storm.
Much as Americans must have wished it, neither of these indulgences came free. In fact, the typical cost of a movie ticket in 1957 was roughly 0.62¢. That’s nearly double the cost of the whopper burger! Presuming you went out for lunch before your trip to the pictures, expenses added up quickly.
If you’d have rather played a quiet baseball game with friends, the cost of a baseball bat in 1957 was, on average, $4.89.
The Average Cost of a Car in 1957
Then, as now, the cost of a car in 1957 depended on the make and model. Nevertheless, the average cost of a car was in the region of $15,000. That expense was compounded by
increased inflation on cars.
How Much Did a Cadillac Cost in 1957?
Also, in 1957, a Cadillac cost between $4,677 and $7,286.
How Much Does a 1957 Chevy Bel Air Cost?
Ever wondered how much did a 1957 Chevy cost in 1957? Well, the answer for the brand-new Chevy Bel Air would be $2,757. That’s $25,172 today. Meanwhile, to keep your car running, the average cost of gas in 1957 was $24.
How Much Did a House Cost in 1957?
But easily the highest expense you incurred was the purchase of a house. The cost of a house in 1957 ranged between $10-20,000. Not only is that considerably more today, but it was years of wages in 1950s money.
7 Major Events in 1957
In addition to the rising cost of living, there were other noteworthy events in 1957. It’s not a year that gets bandied about in the history books, but 1957 wasn’t exactly uneventful.
Globally, 1957 was the year:
- Self-rule for Singapore
- Outbreak of the Asian Flu Pandemic
- The USSR launched Sputnik 1
More locally, 1957 witnessed:
- I Love Lucy came to an end
- Arkansas enforced legislature for the desegregation of schools
- The Eisenhower Doctrine is passed
- Baseball club Brooklyn Dodgers move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles
Self-Rule for Singapore
From its foundation, Singapore had been ruled by the British Empire as a colony. After World War II, however, there was increasing demand to move towards greater independence.
While talks about dissolving the colony were planned for 1956, they never materialized. Indeed, it wasn’t until Lim Yew Hock appeased Britain by leading a crackdown on local communists that independence for Singapore became a tangible possibility.
Finally, on April 11, 1957, Britain agreed in principle to approve a new constitution that would grant Singapore self-governance.
Outbreak of the Asian Flu Pandemic
Another serious event in 1957 was the outbreak of the Asian Flu Pandemic. The virus, known as H2N2, first appeared in East Asia and was documented for the first time in Singapore. By the summer, it had reached America.
In June, it began appearing in England, but the numbers didn’t start to rise dramatically until August. By September, the H2N2 virus had overtaken the rest of the United Kingdom and North America.
By 1958, global health authorities had traced the virus to a mutation stemming from ducks and begun to get the pandemic under control.
One of the most memorable moments of 1957 was the USSR’s launching of Sputnik 1.
Not only did it mark the beginning of the space race, but Sputnik 1 also had the distinction of being the first artificial satellite to reach space.
While it was a significant technological development, it ended up fueling fears in the US that the satellite had given the USSR a military or technological advantage. This concern would galvanize both superpowers to try and one-up each other over the next decade.
End of I Love Lucy
Not everything in 1957 was a global news event. 1957 also saw the conclusion of America’s beloved sitcom I Love Lucy.
Beloved by millions, the show proved to be hugely influential and was the first program to be filmed before a live audience. Unfortunately, as it progressed, the show became increasingly challenging for both actors and writers alike.
Six years in, with material wearing thin and the actors’ lives growing ever more complicated, Hollywood decided to end the show.
Related: Cost of Living in 1970
Arkansas Enforces Desegregation of Schools
On September 4, 1957, a white mob assembled to stop a group of black children, widely known as the ‘Little Rock Nine,’ from starting school with their peers. Shockingly, the state’s National Guard was ordered to prevent the children from attending the segregated school.
Urged to respond to the rising crisis in Arkansas, President Eisenhower federalized the state’s National Guard to support integration. As an added precaution, he also deployed the 101st Airborne Division to protect the Little Rock Nine throughout the school year.
The Eisenhower Doctrine Passed
In March 1957, the Eisenhower Doctrine was adopted. Essentially, it stipulated that Middle Eastern countries could request economic assistance from the US if they felt themselves to be under threat.
Further escalating the Cold War, Eisenhower drew particular attention to the USSR as a perceived regional threat. This was especially relevant after the 1956 Suez Canal Crisis when the USSR started to build an increasingly close relationship with Egypt.
Brooklyn Dodgers Leave Brooklyn
People looking to the Sears catalog to buy those $4 baseball bats in 1957 may have been interested to note that the storied Brooklyn Dodgers left New York State for Los Angeles.
Owner Walter O’Malley made the decision to uproot the team when Brooklyn refused to build a new stadium, something Los Angeles was happy to do.
Times have changed, and inflation has made a significant difference to the cost of living. But it’s interesting to note that, when looking back at 1957, the times aren’t changing as much as the old song says.
The cost of living in the US might look less expensive, but once inflation is factored in, we start to see that prices weren’t so different.
And while we’ve come a long way from incidents like the one at Little Rock, we’re once again living through a devastating pandemic.
Rose-tinted glasses have their place, but we would think carefully before stepping into that time machine. Modern living has its advantages.
Related: Cost of Living in 2000