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1907 Salaries And Today

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A friend of mine recently sent out an email forward that, amongst other things, stated the following to be true in 1907:

The average wage in the U.S. was 22 Cents per hour.



The average U.S. worker made between $200 and $400 per year.



A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year,

a dentist made $2,500 per year,

a veterinarian between $1,500 per year,

and a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.

Another friend then made the quip that they (mechanical engineers) still only make $5,000 a year, not taking into account the impact of inflation on purchasing power in the last hundred years.

If readjusted to 2007 dollars instead of 1907 dollars, I turned to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics’ CPI calculator (which only went back as far as 1913 because that’s when CPI was first started, so these numbers are not 100% accurate and should be higher than what I’ve written) and this is what it would read instead:

The average wage in the U.S. was $4.50 per hour.



The average U.S. worker made between $4,089.21 and $8,178.42 per year.



A competent accountant could expect to earn $40,892.12 per year,

a dentist made $51,115.15 per year,

a veterinarian between $30,669.09 per year,

and a mechanical engineer about $102,230.30 per year.

So in essence, my friend was unknowingly correct.

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5 Responses to “1907 Salaries And Today”

  1. Wes says:

    I had a similar conversation with my Dad a while ago…

    He pointed out that he made about $8,000 in 1965 (out of grad school). His point was that I was (at the time) doing much better. At the time I was making about $65k. So I pointed out to him that $8,000 was equal to about $45k current dollars. Less than I was making but he stood to benefit from a pension and social security. In contrast I had to sock away about $19k between my 401k and IRA.

    By the way… I dug up the email and it turns out that I sent him the same BLS inflation calculator!

  2. miller says:

    Here’s something that stands out to me. In inflation adjusted values, the average worker made between 4k and 8k? Isn’t the average income in US now somewhere between 20k and 30k?

    Hence, while the average mechE doesn’t make more than he did 100 years ago, the average employee makes ~7x more? Not too bad!

    Did I miss something here?

  3. Shaun says:

    What you are forgetting is the huge amount of taxes that we pay now that were not in existence 100 years ago. The gross incomes are very similar in dollar figures, but the net incomes are very different. Some people counted up the many federal, state, and local taxes and came up with the result that every American currently pays around 40% of their income out in taxes. ( http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Taxes/Advice/YourRealTaxRate40.aspx )

    You can find a list of taxes that were not in existence 100 years ago at http://www.afrr.us/taxes-list.html .

    It was in 1913 that 36 states ratified the 16th amendment that allowed the income tax, but that only started at 1% and maxed out at 7% for those earning $500,000 a year and over. Less than 1% of the population actually paid income tax. (according to the official treasury .gov web site)

  4. plonkee says:

    Its a good job for the 1907 versions of accountants, vets and dentists that they didn’t have to buy computers, mobile phones, two cars, etc.

  5. El Indio says:

    I’m a mechanical engineer and I don’t make anywhere near $100k. I’ve got to do something about that! Actually, I hope to start my masters soon and hopefully get a raise or switch jobs after that.


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