Prices in the 1950s were substantially lower than they are today. The1950s is a suitable decade for price comparisons because it was not until the end of the Second World War that the emergence of the middle class is first seen in the United States. Price comparisons involve the items typically purchased or considered hallmarks of middle-class Americans.
The most substantial purchases then, as they are today, are the cost of purchasing a home, the cost of purchasing a car and the cost of college tuition. In 1950, the average family income was $3,300, the median home price was $7,354, the average car cost $1,510 and annual tuition at the University of Pennsylvania was $600. In terms of average annual family income, the median home price was 2.2 times that amount, the average car cost 45 percent and college tuition constituted 18 percent.
By 2014, annual family income has risen to $51,017, the median home price is $118,100, the average car costs $31,252 and annual tuition at the University of Pennsylvania exceeds $40,000. In terms of average annual income, the median home price is 3.7 times that amount, the average car cost is 67 percent and college tuition is 80 percent of average family's annual income.