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James P. Mitchell, Secretary
For sale by the Superintendent o f D ocuments, U.S. Govern me nt Printing Oflicc
Was h i ng ton 25, D.C. - Price $1 (paper)
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

One of the millions of America's
city workers- a typical consumer
of the 1930's .

PHOTOGRAPHS by Ankers Photographers; Brown Brothers; E. I. du Pont de
Nemours & Co., Inc.; Harper's Bazaar; Levitt & Sons, In c.; Library of Congress;
National Archives; National Capital Planning Commissio n; San FranciscQ Bay
Area Rapid T ransit Com mission.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


This book describes the improvements in living· standards which
Americans have achieved since 1888.
In that year, the Commissioner of Labor initiated the Federal Government's first survey to find out how people livewhat food they ate, what clothes they wore, what kinds of
dwellings they lived in, what they spent on recreation and
Since that time, at fairly widespread intervals, similar studies
have been made, some of national coverage. And each in turn
reflected changes in the way that people live.
In this book these various studies have been dovetailed to yield
a picture of changes in the consumption habits of the American
people over more than half a century.
The picture is representative. Excluding the extremes of
wealth and poverty, it concentrates on the middle group of consumers-the families of the millions of blue-collar and whitecollar workers who make up the vast bulk of our predominantly
city life. These, when all is said and done, are the American consumers, the workers who make up our society. The way they live
is the way that most of us live.
As the book shows, living conditions have improved. They have
improved tremendously. Not only in material things, but also in
many things that might be termed spiritual. We now have not
only better plumbing, better health, but also more time to read,
to learn, to think, to dream, more time to restore the body and
to heal the mind.
These are worthwhile accomplishments.
We are all aware, of course, that the changes here reported are
taking place. The value of this book is that it brings together
between covers the measured evidence of this progress. It tells
not only what, but how much. It also reminds us of numerous
areas of change which we might otherwise have forgotten. And
it gives us some feeling, even in our own time, of the speed with
which we may expect change in the future.
Having seen how far we have come, perhaps we may justifiably
and with hope look forward to further improvements.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Secretary of Labor.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


This volume is the work of many members of the staff of the
Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics, Ewan Clague, Commission er. The Division of Prices and Cost of Living developed the
basic framework of the book, which stems from the Bureau's
studies of income and consumption.
Except as otherwise noted below, the authorship of the 10 chapters was by members of the staff of the Division of Prices and
Cost of Living.
I. Lawrence R. Klein, Office of Publications
II. Joseph A. Clorety
III. H. E. Ril ey
IV. Faith M. Williams and Anna-Stina Ericson, Office of
Labor Economics
V. Doris P. Rothwell
VI. Faith M. Williams, Office of Labor Economics
VII. Helen H. Lamale
VIII. Paul R. Kerschbaum, Office of Program Planning
IX. Abner Hurwitz
X. Joseph A. Clorety
Mary S. Bedell, of the Bureau's Office of Publications, provided
substantive editing and continuity for the contributions by the
several chapter authors.
Major contributions, in the form of working papers, estimates,
and tabulations, were made by a number of staff members of the
Division of Prices and Cost of Living. Credit is also due to other
members of the departmental staff who have ass isted materially
in this project.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Foreword __ ___ _ _
Chapter I. The B ell and the Bay Window
_ __ _ _ _ _
Bridging Two Eras _ _ _
Ease and Status for the Worker_ __ _
Securi ngo fEase ___ _
Life Off th e Job __ _
Workaday Living __________ _
Achievem e nt of Status _ _ __________ _
Com mun ity Standing
.Job Equity
Th e New Bent of Mind _
Th e Long , Hard Row _________ _ _______________ _
The Closed Frontier_ _ _ _ __ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _____________ _
A N e w L abor Fo r ce and A N ew Mark et_ _
Slum Living and the Immigrant_ ____ _ _ _ _ _
Study of the Italian Born _____________ _
Closeup of a Slum Family __ __________ _
Ame rican and European Living Standards ___ _
Studies of the Era ____________ _
The 1898 Co mmission _______________ _
The Steel Sto ry ___________ ___ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Th e Golden Tra ce
Produ ctivity- Prereq ui site of Progress
Bases for Higher Produ ctivity __ _
Material B e ne fits _ _ __ _
Social Values __
_ ___________________ _ _
Democracy __
U nionis m ________________________________ _
Social R eform _______ _ _______________________ _
Eco nomic "E mancipatio n " of Wom e n _ _
____ ______________ _ ________
Educatio n _
The Private Household _______
Advertising a nd Credit_ ____ ___ _
C hapter II. The Broadening Base of Co nsumption _
Conditions of Progress __ _ _ _ _ _ __ _
Rise of Famil y In co m es __________________ _ _______
Wages a nd Salaries ________________________
Nonmonetary In co me __ __________________
N arrowing of In co me Diffe re ntials _
Taxes and Purc hasing Power _ _______ _ _
Savings, Credit, and Economic Security _____
Shifting Patte rns of Consumption ___
Expe nditure Pattern s in Six Surveys ________
C hanges in Actual Buying P ower__ _ ________ ______
The 1950 Survey: Additional Detail_ _ ____
Patterns fo r W or kers' Families and Other Groups ___
R edefi ning "Ba. ic N ecessities" __________ __________
R ole of "Su ndries" _ _____________ _ ____
Coll ateral M eas ures of Co nsumption __________________
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

















Chapter III. From t he Slums to Suburbia _______ _ ________________ _
Housing at the End of the 19th Century _____________ _
Causes of Congestion and Poor Housing ___________ _
Homeownership ___ ______________________________ _
Condition of the Workers' Houses ________________ _
First 2 Decades of the 20th Century ___ ____ __________ _
R egulatory Measures ____________________________ _
Urban Growth _____________________ _____________ _
War Housing ____ ______________________________ _
Housing at the End of World War!_ _____________ _
Changes Between the Two Wars ___________________ _
Boo ming Twenties ___ ___________________________ _
Housing Expenditures During t he Depression ______ _
Economic Recovery- Government Aid ____ ________ _
Federal Housing Legislation ____________________ _
Low-Income Housing _________________________ _
World War II and Veterans' Ho using _______________ _
Workers' Housing at Midcentury _________________ _
Extent of Homeownership ________ ________________ _
Cost and Choice of Housing in 1950 _______________ _
Home and Community __________________________ _
The Seamy Side ______________________________ _
New Suburbs _________________________________ _
Chapter IV . The Homemaker's Job and the Home Scene ___________ _
Housekeeping in 1900 ______________________________ _
Condition of Houses _____________________________ _
Furniture and Equipment_ _______________________ _
Beginnings of Mechanized Housekeeping _____________ _
The Mid-Thirties_ _ _ __ __ __ ___ _ __ ______ ___ ________ _
Wartime an d Postwar Purchases ________ _
The Worker's Home in 1950 _____ ______ ___
Technological Changes in the Home _________________ _
The Housewife's Job Today _____ _____ ___ ___________ _
Chapter V. Meals, Menus, and Market Baskets ___________________ _
Evolu tion in Diets and Food Marketing ___ __ _
Variety in the Diet ___________
__________ _
Stores and Packages _________ _ ___ _ ___ _ _ _ __ _ _ _ _
Improvements in Nutrition ___________________ _
Research in Nutrition ____ __________________ _
Food in the Family Budget_ ___ _
_ ____________ _
Eating Out ____________ - - ____ _ - - ___ ___ - - - _ __ Food in the Family Kitchen _____________ _
Importance of Meats __________________ _
Fruits and Vegetables ___ _
Grain Products ____ _
Milk and Other Dairy Products ___ _
Desserts and Nonalcoholic Drinks __
Proof of the Pudding ___ _ __ _ _ _________ _
Chapter VI. Clothing and Personal Care ___ __ ________ _
Nature of t he Revolution in Dress _______ _ _______ _
Textile Fibers __ _ __ ___ ___
Garment Production ____________________________ _
Styling __________________________________ _
Environment_ ___________________________________

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis











Chap ter VI. Clothin g anrl P ersonal Care- Continued
Trends in Clothing Expenditu res _____
Clothing Expen ses of Different Family Members __
Types of Clothing Purchased ___ __ _
Men's AppareL ____ ____ _
Women's Clothing __ _
Clothing for C hildren ___ _______ _
Trend s in Expenditures for Personal Ca re _
Chapter VII. Health Care: Past Gains, New Goals __
Health Problems of Urb a n Workers in 1900 ____
Lack of Knowledge ___ _
W o rking Co nditions _
Housing Conditions __
Illness and Medical Ca re _ _
Efforts Towa rd Impro ve ment_ __ __ _
Growth in Health Services _________
Hospitals_ __________
H ealth Ser vice P erso nnel _ _ _ __
Govern ment H ealth Assistance _
Voluntary Health Agencies __ _
Industrial Medical Services
H ealth Advances _________________ _
Pure F ood and Drugs ______ _ _
Cont rol of Disea se __ __ _
Length ening the Life Span ____ _
Cost s of Medi cal Care for Workers' Families __ _
Medical Care Expenditures ________
T y pes of Medical Services Obtained
Differences b y Occupational Group and Regi on _ _ _
In fl uence of Family Size and Income
Adequacy of Ex pendi t ures ______
Var iability in Medical Costs _
Free Medical Care _
Paying for M edical Care __
H ealt h of Wor kers T oday ___
C hapter VIII . The Revolu t ion in Tra ns portation __ _
Workers' T rans portation, 1900 to 1920 _
Public Transportation ___
The Automobile_ ___ _ _
Changes During t he Twenti es a nd T hirties __
Family Expenditures for Transportati on _
Trans portation Facilities _____ __ ___
Public Transportation _
Automobile Travel_ __
Tran sportation Since 1940 _
Growt h in Use of Credit
__ _ _ _ _ _ _
Family Expenditu res _ _
N ew Problems of Extensive Automobile Ownership ___
Chapter IX. Time for Living _
C hanges in Working Time
The Workwee k _
Vacations ____ _
R etirement
In crease in Free Time __ _______ _
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


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Chapter IX . Tim e for Living- Continued
In creasing Variety of L eisure-Time Activities ___ _
E n tertain ment_ __ _______ __ __ _
_________ _
Sports _
__ __ ___ _
___________ _
Trav~ ___________________ _
Public R ecreation Facilities _____ _
W orkers and Communi ty Affairs
Radio , T elevision, and Music __ _
Adult Educatio n
________ _
R eadi ng
Expenditures of Workers' Families
Chapter X. Consump t ion Statistics : A T echnical Comment_ _
Surveys of Co nsum er Expenditures
Laying the Foundation: 1875 _ _
Purposes of Maj or Surveys __ _
Purpo es of Other Sur veys ___ _
Populations R eprese nted ____ _
Cri te ria for Selectio n of Families
Survey Methods _ _
Personal Co nsumption Ex penditu res _
Adj ust ment s for Nonco mparabili ty _
Co mpariso n With l~x pendi t ure Sur veys
E stimating 1956 Family Expenditures
Standa rd B udgets a s Indi cators of Progress
Co nce ptual Advances
Budget t udies _
References __ _


. 206

1. Consumption ex pend itu res of famili es of wage earne rs in 15 cities a nd

to wn s in Massac husetts, by in co me class, 1874- 75 _ _______
2. Co nsump t ion ex pendi t ures of "no rmal families" of workers in 9 basic
indu stries, by income class, 188 91
3. Co nsump tion expenditu res of "normal fami lies" in principal industria l centers in :33 States, by income class, 1901
_ _ ___ _ _____
4. Co nsumption expenditures of white workers' famili es with at least
o ne child , in cities of all sizes, by in come class , 1917 19 _____
5. Co nsumpti on ex penditure. of fami lios of empl oyed workers in cities
o f 50,000 and over, b y in come class, 1934- 36 __
_ _______
6. Co nsumption expenditures of wage-earne r and clerical-worker fami lies
in cities of 2,500 and ove r, by in come class, 1950
7. Average con sumpti o n expend itures of famili es of city wage and cleri cal
wo rkers of two or m ore person s, selected peri ods
_ ____ _
8. Co nsumption expe ndi t ures of a ll fam ilies in cities of 2,500 a nd ove r,
by in co me class, 1950 _
9. Consumpti on expenditures of wage-earner and cleri cal-worker famili es
an d single consumers in cities of 2,500 and ove r , by region and occupational group, 1950 _
10. Per ce nt of skill ed wage earne rs ow ning hom es a nd selected ite m s of
furniture and household eq uipm ent, b y reg ion and ty pe of city,
1950 ____ __ ____ ------ ----- ----- ------- _

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis





11. Percent distribution of expenditures for food consumed at home by
urban wage-earner and clerical-worker families , selected periods,
1901- 55 __ _ _ _ _ ___ _ _ ___ ___ ______ _
12. Average number of pound s of food purchased per week for consump-

14 .



tion at home by urban wage-earner a nd clerical-worker families, estimated for 3 persons, selected periods, 1901- 55 _
_ _ __ _ __
Annual cloth ing expenditures for members of famili es of e mployed
wage and clerical workers, by age, sex, and occupation, 19:!4 36 _ _
Average number of garments purchased annua ll y by men and boys
over 16 years of age in fami lies of city wage earners and clerical
workers, 1917- 19, 1934 36, and 1950 _ _ _ _
Average number of garments purchased annually by women and girls
over 16 years of age in fami lies of city wage earne rs and clerical
workers, 1917- 19 , 1934- 3 6, and 1950 ___ ___ _
_ ___ _ _ ___ _
Percent distribution of medical care expenditures by wage and clerical
workers' families, 1917- 19, 1934 36, and 1950 ___ _ _______ _____
Proportion of wage-earner and cleri cal-worker fami lies owning and
purchasing cars in 42 cities, 1934- 36
Proportion of consumer insta llment credit represe nted by automobile
paper, selected elates, 1929 56 _____
_____ _ _____
Co nsumers' method of finan ci ng automobi le purchases, selected years,

1948- 55 __ --- _ _
20 . Percent of wage-earner and cleri cal-worker families reporting expendi-

21 .
22 .
23 .
24 .

27 .

tures for automobile and other travel and transportation, by income
class, 1950 ____ _ ___ _
____ _ _
Percent of wage-earner and clerical-worker families owning automobiles, by occupation of fami ly head , 1950
Motor vehicle use in 17 States for selected occupations of principal
operator, 1951- 54 ___ ___
Wage-earner and clerical-worker family expenditures for recreation,
reading, and education , selected period s, 1901- 50 _ _ _______
Distribution of total personal co nsumption expenditures for recreation
and reading, selected years, 1929- 55 _ __ _______ _______ _______
Percent distribution of urban fami ly ex pendi tures for recreation , reading, and ed ucati on, 1950 __
________ _ _ __
Total personal consumption expenditures per capita and average expenditures for current consumption per family member, selected
years, 1901- 56 (in current do ll ars)_____ _______________ _____ __ _
Consumption expenditures of all urban consumer units, 1950 averages
and 1956 estimates
_________ _
_____ ___ _
Selected standard family budgets in the United States, 1903 56 __ ___

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1. How urban wage-earner and clerical-worker fam ilies of 2 or more divided their ex pendit ures for current consu mption at selected times __
2. How urban wage-earner and clerical-worker fam ilies of 2 or more at
selected income levels divided their expencli tu res for current consumption in 19 50 ___ __ ____
3. The dumb-bell plan , 1879 _
4. Relation of the income level and expenditures for shelter by urban
wage-earner and cl erical-worker families, selected years, 1901, 191719 , 1934- 36, and 1950 _ ____ _ _ _______ __ ___
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis




P age

5. Importa nce of furni shings, eq uipment, a nd household operation in expenditures by urban wage-earner and clerical-worker families, selected
years, 1917- 19, 1934- 36, and 1950 ___________
- -------- __
6. Importance of food a nd beverages in famil y ex pe nditures, selected yea rs,
190l- 50, all income classes ___ _
_______ _
__ __ _ _ ___
7. The share of the famil y food budget going for meat, poultry, and fish,
selected years, 1901 55 , all income classes ____ _
8. The burden of medical care ex penditures a m ong urban fa milies in 1950 __
9. Trend s in methods of transit, selected years, 1905- 54 __ _ __ _

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



The Bell and the Bay Window
. Th e front door bell and the bay window have
been a boon to social conditions of the tenement
dw eller. Th e early tenements never had private
entrnnces. Wh en the individual began to build his
own house, he had a door bell and a private entrance,
even though a fam'ily lived on the fl,oor above him.
H e also has a bay window on his house, ancl eve1·ything also has to be in keeping with that bay
window-b etter furnishings and belongings of all
- Labor Department testimony before
commiss ion , 1901.


cong ress ional

By any material measure, city workers and their families in the
United States today have remarkably higher living standards than
they did at the beginning of this century. Perhaps the most evident indications are that they earn more and they buy more and
have thus become the most important group of consumers of the
products of the Nation's economy.
The social and economic forces which produced the upsurge of
living standards in the United States between 1900 and 1950 were
indeed complex. It is the purpose of this chapter first to impart
some sense of the change in well-being of the American workman
and his family during this time and then to discuss briefly a few
of the forces which contributed to the change-the basic structure
of the bridge between the two eras.

The 20th century American, said Henry Adams in 1904, would
be a product of "incalculable coal power, chemical power, electric
power, and radiating energy, as well as of new forces yet undetermined . . . . At the rate of progress since 1800, every American who lived into the year 2000 would know how to control
unlimited power. He would think in complexities unimaginable
to an earli er mind. He would deal with problems altogether beyond the range of earlier society. To him the 19th century would
stand on the same plane with the 4th . . . and he would only
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


wonder h ow both of them, knowing so little, a nd so weak in for ce,
sh ould h ave done so much."'
Thus Adams mad e a bold and broad projection of th e future.
Three decades later , the Presidential committee investigating
social cha nges loo ked back and exami ned some of those unim agined
complexities :
"The first t hird of the 20th century has been filled with epochmaking events a nd crowded with problems of great variety and
complexity. The world war, the inflation and deflation of agriculture and business ... the spectacular increase in efficiency a nd
prod uctivity and the tragic spread of un employm ent and business
distress .. . t he stoppage of immigration . . . the struggles of
the Progressive a nd the Farmer Labor parties . .. the sprawl of
great cities . .. the expansion of ed ucation, the rise and weakening of organi zed labor, the growth of spectacular fo r tunes . . . the
emphasis on sports a nd recreation . . . t hese are a few of the many
happenings which have marked one of the most eventful periods of
our history."
" ... Modern life," it continu ed, "is everywhere complicated, but
especially so in t he United States, wh ere immigration from many
lands, rapid mobility within the co untry itself, t h e lack of establish ed classes or caste to act as a brake on social changes, t h e
tendency to seize upon new types of machines, rich natural r eso urces, and vast driving power h ave hurried us dizzily away from
the days of the frontier into a whirl of modernisms wh ich almost
passes belief." 2
The bridge wh ich links the 1890's w ith the mid-20th century is
canted broadly upward. At the lower end, it spans the war with
Spain , the acquisition of territory and emerge nce of t h e Nation
as a world power, the high tide of immigration, the expansion of
industry in volume and in size of unit, a cascade of inventions and
processes, the beginnings of a national labor movement, the broad
extension of popular education , and the rumblings of social reform.
These wou ld be events aplenty for five decades, even omitti ng the
start of the r evolutio n in transportation a nd communication . But
they bring us only to about 1910.
Still to be bridged are a major depression with mass un employment, two world wars, the burgeoning of citi es, the political and
economi c eman cipation of women, th e establi shm ent of the power
of uni onism, a nd the expansion of government influence in many
phases of economic a nd social life, especiall y in t he role of ameliorative agent a nd g uarantor of security.

N uml ,ered foot noll's ,ire listed at e nd o f t.•ac h chapter.

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In the midst of this progression of events, the improvement in
the material side of American life was, as one commentator has put
it, "all but convulsive." 3

In the spring of 1957, the United Steelworkers of America
proudly paraded the success stories of several of the recipients of
union scholarships-children of members-who share union grants
totaling $40,000 yearly. Among those who had completed undergraduate or graduate work in the 10 years since the local unions
had begun sponsoring the scholarships were engineers, mathematicians, psychologists, electronic technicians, and biologists.
Many of them were employed as salaried experts or officials in the
very plants where their fathers had served or still serve as hourly
rated production workers.
The significance of this seemingly minor and limited benefit
should not be overlooked. It is symptomatic of a revolution which
has transformed the average American worker and his family from
a precarious and sometimes comfortless production unit with a
generally drab existence into a certainly more secure and possibly
more relaxed household group. Reduced to a brace of words, the
situation of the typical worker's family in the 1950's relative to
1900 was one of ease and status.
Homelife was easier because the material equipment of the home
was more efficient and comfortable and the home itself more commodious and satisfying. Worklife required fewer hours and less
physical effort, and commanded larger monetary rewards. Status
in the community and in the reckoning of the employer, manifest
in scores of activities and in the workaday practices of industrial
relations, was firmly and widely established.
These flat assertions need elaboration.
Securing of Ease

Life Off the Job. Wholly apart from a general improvement in
the quality of housing which has occurred since 1900 (see chapter
III) has been the growth of hom eow nership itself. Farm houses
aside, the proportion of all occupied dwellings which were owner
occupied rose from about three-eighths in 1900 to more than half
in 1950 and about three-fifths in 1956. That wage earners' families were participating extensively in this trend toward buying
hom es (or eq uiti es in them) is apparent from the price levels of
new homes begun in 1956: more than half were planned to sell
for less than $15,000.
Within the worker's home in the mid-1950's was an abundance
of modern equipm ent. Typically, there would be no less than
4 711'11

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

- 2


electricity, running hot and cold water, at least one fully equipped
bathroom, central heating, a vacu um cleaner, a washing machine,
a telephone, a radio and a television set, a gas or electric cooking
stove, a refrigerator, and completely furnished rooms. In many
instances the heating would be automatic and the kitchen would
contain a dishwasher, a garbage disposal unit, and an exhaust fan.
Electric air conditioners, blankets, fans, and mixers, and a multitude of other aids to housekeeping and home living, not excepting
the power lawnmower, were within the range of the worker's family
Of course, the personal debt outstanding on the house and on
much of what was in it, as well as on the automobile parked outside, might be considerable. But the chief breadwinner's income,
with increasing frequency augmented by the earni ngs of a working
wife, plus comparatively cheap credit, carried the burden, In this
respect, as in so many others, the worker's fami ly differed little
from many in higher income groups.
With the shortening of the workweek by 15 hours between 1900
and 1956, the wage earner (with exceptions and variations) now
has weekend leisure. He also has several paid holidays annually
and a paid vacation. His car or his outboard motor or his home
workshop offers the mobility or opportunity to develop and indulge his hobbies. More important as a concomitant of this leisure
is the opportunity for the wage earner to participate in the social
life of the family.

Workaday Living. Increased real earnings, which have made
ease of home living a commonplace to the worker, were also accompanied by an easing of physical effort on the job. One authority who has written extensively on th is subject takes issue
with the contention "that an hour of work now makes heavier
demands upon the worker than in a simpler economy . . . . " He
conceded that "the tempo of working, as of living, is faster now
than formerly; and the pace or rhythm of the machine is felt by
larger numbers of workers especially in the semiskilled employments." Nevertheless, he wrote, "Recent trends ... have tended
to mitigate the effects of extreme specialization, of heavy drudgery . . . . Technology has tended to mechanize and routinize
production, but it has also lightened men's labors and given them an
increasing role in managing machines and supervising automatic
The forklift truck, the mechanical handling of materials, the
seemingly never-ending stream of new types of power equipment
to relieve the strain of heavy labor, especially in foundry, mine,
and constructi on work, have without doubt combined with the
shorter workday and the shorter workweek and the shorter work4
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

year to ease the physical effort involved in most jobs. Two other
developments have also contributed to making work less onerous.
As mechanization and automation have proceeded, many slow,
tedious hand operations and heavy manual tasks have been transformed into semiskilled or even skilled work, and unskilled jobs
have become less prevalent (8 percent of total employment in
1950, compared with 15 percent in 1910). At the same time,
white-collar workers have come to represent a much larger proportion of the labor force (21 percent in 1950, only 10 percent
in 1910).
Even such innovations as in-plant hot lunches and adequate sanitary cleanup and toilet facilities have had their beneficial effect.
Moreover, with the stimulus of protective legislation, collective
bargaining, and the organized safety movement, closer attention
has been paid to the health and safety of the worker on the job.
The extent to which this protection has contributed as well to his
peace of mind is hardly capable of measurement. There is some
corollary evidence that it has had a stimulating effect on

Achievement of Status

It would be labored a nd somewhat unrealistic to separate the
securing of ease at home and ease at work from the achievement
of status in the community and status on the job. Social conditions in a state of change do not follow neat, discrete channels;
rather, many of the streams flow together at some point.
Comniunity Standing. One of the major advantages of a shorter
workday cited by the Industrial Commission established by Congress in 1898 was the time thus afforded for the development of
citizenship. Conscious, perhaps, of the large proportion of foreign
born in the labor force, it argued in its report: "On the side of the
working population ... they gain not only in health, but also in
intelligence, morality, temperance, and preparation for citizenship . . . . Lessening of hours leaves more opportunity and more
vigor for the betterment of character, the improvement of the
home, and for studying the problems of citi ze nship. For these
reasons the short workday for working people brings an advantage
to the entire community.""
The integration of the worker with the community has always
been an institutional objective of the American labor movement.
As early as 1883, Adolph Strasser, close associate of Samuel
Gompers, told the Se nate Committee on Education and Labor that
one of the principal aims of labor was to "become better citizens
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Gompers himself, notes one keen student of labor, by 1900 had
influenced American labor to "·a fateful commitment: to seek
a secure place within the social structure of capitalist society
rather than stand outside and fi ght it . . . . The consequences . . .
were enormous." Labor's big ambition, h e continu ed, became the
winning of "acceptance within the society as a 'legitimate' social
group." ' In pursuit of that ambition, workers and th eir leader s
sought equity with other groups, r ecognition in political and governmental affairs, collective bargaining with employer s, and participation in community und ertakings.
By 1950, aided especially by the official r ecognition accorded
labor during both world wars, this institutional aim of labor was
established on local, national, and internationa l levels. Organized
labor had "won a r espected and respectable seat at the American
community table."•
The community status thu s achieved by wage earners as a
group through trade unionism is actually excelled by the changed
community standing they have acquired as individuals. The enhancement of the wage earner's economic fortune by union action,
whether or not h e is a union member, is one contributing factor.
An oth er is a general democratic pervasion of social life a nd custom.
The wage earner 's way of life is well-nigh indi stinguishable from
that of his salaried co-citizen s. Their homes, their cars, their
babys itters, the style of th e clothes their wives and children
wear, the food they eat, th e bank or lending institution where
they establish credit, their days off, the education of their children, their church-all of these are alike and are becoming more
nearly identical.
It is not only that the typical wage earner no longer lives in an
identifiably "working class" neighborhood or that his washing
machin e contains th e same gage sh eet st eel and the same electric
motor as that of th e wealthier man; or that they both are officers
of the P-T A, or are elected to public office, or may go to the same
dentist. It is a lso that the American workin gman is conscious of
the fact th at h e has attained a position in society not even approached by his counterpart in any other part of the world. H e
has pride in him self and especially in the ach ievements of his
famil y. He has little cause for repeating th e vow often uttered
through t he early decades of the century, half bitterly, once hopelessly, that "no kid of mine is going to work in th e shop"; his
" kids" co uld much more fre ely make their ow n choices, and with
far less cause for avoiding the "shop."

Job Equity. Work in the shop has itself acquired a new status.
Directly or indirectly becau se of unionization, a multitude of
factors have combined to give the worker a sense of equity in his
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

job. The concept and practice of seniority, the vast development of
private pension funds, and looming very important indeed, the
systematic processing of grievances, freedom from arbitrary dismissal, and the right to equity through his union's representation
in the assessment of discipline, are pertinent examples. Management itself has initiated or accepted programs wh ich strengthen
the job-equity feeling: stock ownership, profit sharing, and
negotiations or consultations with labor on many matters until
recently zealously guarded and jealously regarded as absolute
management prerogatives.
The Wertheim Fellowship study of dual loyalty by Father
Theodore Purcell strongly suggests that the feeling of status and
satisfaction of the worker on the job flows largely from acceptance
of the dual responsibilities of company and union and that the
ensuing dual allegiance "is something they have, something they
want, something that must not be threatened." 9

The New Bent of Mind
Allowance for some overdrawing in our picture still leaves room
for the well-based conclusion that there has been a rapid fading
in the distinctive coloration of the working class. This phenomenon is strikingly apparent in comparison with 1900; it is even
detectable since 1940.
The adoption of middle-class attitudes, the change in what
workers have come to expect, even more than the greatly augmented real family income, points to this great revolution in class
relations. "When an entire population struggles for subsistence
from one day to the next," states the foreword to America's Needs
and Resources, "its problems of economic philosophy are relatively
few . Its choices and decisions are limited. Once this point is
passed, however, each member of the population is faced with a
new question; not 'Can I live?' but 'What kind of life do I wish to
lead?' " 1 ° Certainly there is compelling evidence that the wage
earner has realized formerly undreamed-of ways of working and
The wage earner's yearnings have long since left behind John
Mitchell's quest for "better homes and education." 11 They have
even broadened Philip Murray's goal of "music in the home, pictures on the wall, carpets on the floor." 12
Some of the causes of th is changed outlook on living, listed in
almost the most abbreviated possible form, are the broadened
scope of trade union activity and the decline of "voluntarism";
advertising and mass media of communication; education; the
foreign travel of the citizen armies; accessibility and abundance
of commodities and services; the working wife (increasingly work-
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


ing for items of "extra" living rather than to help eke out an
existence) ; and the forward strides in real family income.

The Closed Frontier
It was not always th us.
Theodore Roosevelt, writing in 1902 of the 5 months' strike of
150,000 anthracite coal miner s, trenchantly summed up th e close
of an era and presaged with accuracy the essentials of a grievous
labor problem: *
"A few generations ago, an Am erican workman could have saved
money, gone West, and taken up a homestead. Now the free lands
were gone. In earlier days a man who began with pick and shovel
might have come to own a mine. That outlet too was now
closed . . . . The majority of the men who earned wages in the
coal industry, if they wished to progress at all, were compelled
to progress not by ceasing to be wage earners, but by improving
the conditions under which all the wage earn ers in a ll the industries
of th e country lived and worked, as well, of course, as improving
th eir own individual efficiency." 13
By 1900, the frontier was indeed closed, and pushing against
its limits was the tidal force of immigration, the source of which,
by this time, had shifted markedly to southern and eastern Europe.
Probably 20 million immigrants had entered the United States in
the 80 preceding years. Nearly 4 m illion came in the 1890's; more
than a million in 1905 alone. Before 1890, many of the newcomers arrived with the expectation of establishing themselves in
business or as independent farmers . After 1890, most newcomers
sought jobs in the cities. Usually they took manual jobs, since few
had the training for professional or managerial work, and limited
knowledge of English prevented them from working at office or
selling jobs.
A New Labor Force and A New Market
The consequence was an increase in urban population generally,
with a heavy admixture of foreign born. In 1900, the population
in "urban territory" had reached 30 million, or 40 percent of the
total. The proportion of foreign born in cities of 25,000 or more
was 25 percent; in some of the very large cities it was 50 percent
or more. Growing city populations-swollen also by migrants
*As P res id e n t., Roosevelt had in te rve ned in the coal strike a nd ap po in ted a commi ss io n to
a rbi t rate th e issues. (See Re po rt to the Pres id ent o n t he A n thrac ite Coal Strike o f May- Octo be r,
l.D 02, by t he Anth racit" Coal S t r ike Comm issio n . W ash ingto n. D . C .. 1903.) T h is was a departu re fro m p revious govern me n tal interve n tio n in labor dis pu tes, part ic ula rl y in the ra il road
str ikes o( 187 7 and t h e Pullm an str ike of J 894, w hen Federal troops had been emp loyed , and its
signi fi cance in social h istory is deserv ing of con siderable we ig ht.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

WORKING PLACES-For its time, this was a fairly comfortable workshop.
Compared with modern standards, it is crowded, poorly lig hted, and cluttered with work materials. Note the clothin g of the women workers.

from America's farms and small towns-simultaneously created
an ample labor supply and a vast domestic market for farm
products and manufactured goods. Workers, flocking to cities that
were often already bursting at the seams, found in many cases
that the price of survival was the development of a high degree of
adaptability as workers. They achieved also a readiness to experiment with new modes of living.
The significance of immigrants in the labor force of the country
was discussed at some length by the Commissioner of Labor in a
1913 report. Foreign-born workmen in 1907-8 comprised 62 percent of the soft-coal work force, 58 percent in iron and steel, 72
percent in cotton textiles, 66 percent in woolens, nearly 70 percent
in oil refining and in leather, 61 percent in meatpacking, and from
50 to 60 percent in an assortment of metal manufactures.
The report noted that "the foreign born, who are in large part
recent immigrants from eastern and south ern Europe, constitute
a majority of the labor force. The possibility of utilizing this tremendous supply of cheap though untrained labor has contributed
greatly to the expansion of the iron and steel industry. The introduction of these unskilled immigrants has had a complex and
important effect on the working conditions in the industry." 1 1
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


With most of the industries where the immigra nts fo und jobs
located in cities, the resulting crowding a nd creation of slum areas
was the subject of numerous private a nd official surveys a nd
investigations. All of them revealed fragments of the life of the
workingman of the period-his paycheck, his workday, his health,
his eating habits, and his housing. It is difficult t o r ealize that the
level of living thus portrayed represented the highest in the world
for the working class. It was meager and often squalid, but for
the immigrant it was the best he had known and the money wage
he received could buy many items hitherto unknown in his budget ;
and all the while h e was buttressing the market and helping to
induce a consumption-productivity relationship which, a generation
hence, would so radically change his status a nd manner of li ving.

Slum Living and the Immigrant*
One of the studies of slum areas was a uthorized by joint resolution of Congress in 1892. The study, cond ucted by the Commissioner of Labor, covered Baltimore, Chicago, New York, and
Almost half of the employed slum dwellers in each city earned
less than $10 a week; from 10 to 24 percent earned less than $5.
Average periods of unemployment over a designated year ranged
from 3 to 31/2 months. Weekly earnings of fa mily groups (and
multiple wage earning was common a nd often crucial to fam ily
survival) averaged a s high as $21. (For purposes of comparison,
the purchasing power of the dollar at the time of the s t udy was
equivalent to about $3.20 in 1950.)
Crowding is starkly revealed by the following figures relating
to sleeping accomm odation s, computed from some of the basic
tables of the report.

I te111

Percentage of all persons sleeping 4 or more per
roon1 ____ ____________ ________ ___________ __ ______
Percentage of all persons sleeping in rcom with
only I or no outside window ___ ______ _____ __ __ __
Largest number or persons found slee ping in I

room _______ ------------1


----- --- ---- --


New York

P h iladelph ia














The dormitory sleeping 92 is listed as having 8 wi ndows.

Study of the Italian Born. A preponderance of Italian born
among the slum dwellers of Chicago disclosed by the report-1 out
*N ot a ll w orkin g -class fa milies, o f cou rse, li ved in s lum s, hu t mos t of t he f o i·eig n -bo rn
workers <lid , an d t hey we re a large propo rtion o f a ll u rba n WOl' k ers in the pe riod under rev iew.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

INDUSTRIAL HOMEWORK- Late in to the ni ght at the turn of the century
many a newl y anived immigra nt family fought for s urvival by working
und er contract at home. Poor lighting and crowded condition s in confined
living quarters were the lot of many city workers.

of every 3 of the foreign born and 1 out of 6 of all Chicago residents
studi ed-prompted a special study in 1896 which throws further
light on living conditions at about the turn of the century, particularly with respect to problems of adjustment and exploitation
of immigrants. With but minor modifications to allow for ethnic
differences, many of the basic findings of the study co uld have
applied to Poles, Hungarians, Lithuanians, and a dozen other
European nationalities.
Average weekly earni ngs were somewhat lower than those for
the city's slum dwellers at large. Men's weekly earnings ranged
from $2.29 to $8.25; women's, from $1.72 to $3.02. Average hours
worked per week for men were 59, for women, 51. Significantly,
nearly 60 percent were unemployed some part of the year, with
almost half out of work for 5 or more months.
An examination of dietary h abits was mad e, with the conclusion reached that the Italians were eating a plenitude of fat
and overly starch y foods. Samples of diets generally followed by
Italian laborers featured heavy quantities of lard, pork, potatoes,
macaroni with beans, and beer. So loath was the Italian to adopt
American food habits, the report contended, that he would often
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


lie "sick in his own home for months while unhealthful surroundings and bad food conspire agai nst his recovery" rather than go to
a hospital where he would be compelled to eat what to him was
unpalatable food . 1" The disproportionately high rate of disabling
sickness among Italians (17.5 percent, compared with less than
4 percent for the city's slum inhabitants as a whole) was attributed
by the report in large measure to dietary deficiencies.
Yet, the Italians were forsaki ng old country habits of home
production of other kinds of goods. For example, although 3 out
of 4 women had spun in Italy, not 1 in 100 spun in Chicago. A
smaller proportion baked in Chicago than in Italy, and the percentage knitting stockings dropped from 86 to 18.
The padrone system, a particularly oppressive type of labor
contracting whereby the contractor or padrone s upplied a gang of
men for a given job and frequently collected commissions from
the laborers in the crew, affected about 22 percent of the Italian
fami lies in Chicago. Of these, nearly all paid some commission
to the padrone. Moreover, the padrone commonly sold food to the
gang (especially when working away from the city) at prices
averaging 60 percent above the market, with macaroni up 50 percent; sausage, 72; lard, 77; and tomatoes, 65.
Clos eup of a Slum Family. Very often, limited but intimate observations reveal more clearly than statistical analysis the essence
of broad social problems. In 1905, a young settlement house
worker published her notes on New York tenement fam ilies whom
sh e visited over an 18-month period. She found that about half
the fam ily income went for food (which is abo ut the proportion
for this item in a 1901 nationwide survey of fam ily expenditures),
but concluded, as did the Commissioner of Labor with respect to
the Italians in Chi cago, that better knowledge of food values and
cooking methods would result in a better diet with less waste. Half
the remaining money went for rent. There were few instances of
savings. The families would forego urgently needed purchases
to keep up insurance payments, especially burial insurance (they
would spend it and more for expensive funerals). Sh e fo und little
knitting or dressmaki ng, quoting the women as saying it was
ch eaper t o buy than make things at home.
A typical apartment lodging a family of 8 wo uld, she reported,
h ave a t iny kitchen "lighted by air-shaft and window opening out
into hall," a combination living and bedroom (2 windows ) , and a
1-window front bedroom (6' x 7'). There would be 1 closet. "There
is no bath in the house. There are 4 waterclosets in the yard.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Each closet is used by 3 fam ilies, who are expected to take turns
keeping it clean ....
"There is a sink with 1 faucet in the kitch en and another in the
hall, wh ich is dark a nd unlit during the day. An open gas jet
burns at night. The cook st ove burns coal. Clothes washing is
done in a wooden tub. Kitchen utensils and dishes are scanty.
There are kerosene lamps for illumination.
"This fami ly has 6 living children, but 3 others died at birth or
in infancy. Five of t he 6 suffer from chronic bronchi tis. There
is an earnest effort to edu cate the children at trade and parochial
sch ools. The eldest daughter (16) and son (15) work in a carpet
factory, earning $5 and $8 a week. The fath er is a derrick lifter,
usually unemployed in the winter but earning up to $3 a day when
on the job. Both parents had migrated from Ireland.'' 1B
American and European Living Standards
Despite the poverty, hardship, exploitation, and outright mi sery
which beset large segments of the population and which were
visited in the cruelest degree on the foreign born and the Negro,
the relative advantage of the American worker over the European
proletarian was viewed with awe by the fore ign visitor. One such,
whose extensive travels in various Stat es toward the close of the
19th century resulted in a penetrating study of the American
economy and its labor for ce, was Emile Levasseur.
Beneath all the demographic and economic data he collected,
Levasseur perceived two points, which h e stressed : the continual
upward trends of real earnings and their influence on standards of
living and minimum comfort; the relationship of productivity to
high wages and low prices.
"Real wages being higher in the United States, th e Amer ican
workman lives more comfortably than the European . . . . He
has acquired settled habits of consumption and enjoyment; his
food is more substantial .. . h e dresses better; he is more comfortably lodged ... he insures his life, and is provident in his own
way; he spends more for am usement and upon the societies with
which he is affiliated: in other words, he has a higher standa1·d of
life than the European workman." "
He also defended t h e propensity of the American worker to
spend all of his income, pointing out that a surplus "is not the only
index of the well-being of the workingman.'' 18 The social position
which spending creates, Levasseur claimed, was a legitimate value.
Concerning productivity and wages, h e fo und that "th e inventive
genius of the American is perhaps a natural gift, but it has certainly been stimulated by t h e rate of wages . . . . The higher
the price of labor, the greater will be the effort of t h e entrepreneur
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Lo economize in its use. Moreover, when machinery has made the
laborer more productiv e, it is possible to pay him a higher
wage . .. ." 19
Levasseur relates the incr edulity of French trad e union delegat es to the 1893 exposition in Chicago on witnessing t h e quality
of equipment a nd the price of products available to the American
worker. On shoes: "Supel'ior to the French not only in the manufacture but also in the prices ... 20 to 30 percent lower than in
Fra nce." On machine tool s: "More speciali zed Lhan in France,
th e machinery costli er, but by its greater productivity, more con" 20
d ucive to low-priced product s

Studies of the Era
Th e 18.98 Commission. Th e period surrounding th e turn of the
century was a well-studied era, and much docu mentary evidence
was assembled by America ns. Not the least of the studies-in
mass as well as in scope a nd content-was th e 19-volume report of
th e Industrial Commiss ion created by joint congreRsional action
in 1898 to inves tigate immigration, labor, agriculture, ma nufacturing, and busi ness, and to uggest Federal a nd State legislation
which might "harmonize conflicting interest s" a nd also "be equitable to the laborer, the employer , th e producer , and the consumer .""1
In a s ummary di scussion of "general social conditi ons a nd progr ess of worki ng classes," th e Commission abstracted t estimony
of witnesses, a nd two significant excerpts follow :22
. ComC lare D e Gmffcnriecl, member of th e stajJ of the U.
mi ·s'ion er of Lcibor: In Massac hu setts text il e town s Lwo-third s of
the e mpl oyees are fore ig-n born. The co nditi on of nati ve la bo r is
steadily im prov ing, whil e the fo reign born are becoming A me1·ican ized. Living cond ition s vary g rea tly. Many me n earn from $9
to $15 per wee k and are ab le to have 5- or 6-rnom cottages. The ir
chi ldren are able to go to sc hool until the ag·e of 14 or 15. Others
sq uand e ,· thei r money in drink or on account of large famil ies a r e
kept in extreme poverty. About one-fifth of the factory population
are in t hi s class. In s uch ca ses th e w ife a nd childre n are driven
into the mil ls to help fami ly inco me. The front door bell and the
bay window ha ve been a boon to socia l con diti ons of the t enem e nt
dwe ll er. The ea rly te ne me nts neve r had private e ntran ces. Wh e n
the individua l began to bui ld his own house, he had a door bell and
a p ri vate e ntran ce, eve n th ough a family li ved on t he fl oor above
him. H e al so has a bay window on hi s house, and everyt hin g al so
has to be in kee ping wit h that bay window- better furnishings and
be lo n1.?: ings of a ll types. They have a piano, ca rpets on th e floor.
Samuel Gom11ers, vresident of the American F'eclel'Cl tion of Labor:
Workers are getting an increasingly large share of the w ealth
produ ced, espec iall y during the past 35 years. The productivity
of t he Ame ri can worker is far g reater t ha n that of any other.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Climatic variation makes people more active and nervou s; they
require more and better foo d , clothing, and houses a nd hence
demand hi ghe r wages. Only the so uthern Neg r o is akin to the
European worker in term s of ex ploitation. A s hor ter workday doe s
not lessen produ ction, and the hou rs saved become hours of opportunity for thought and improvement. Shortening of hours is always
followed by impro vement of ma chin ery.

Two of th e ultimate recommendations of the Commission warrant attention in r elation to present-day attitudes on the s ubjects.
On minimum wages a nd maximum hours, th e Com mi ssion argued
that while t here was equity in a demand for such limi tations, a nd
limits might in some cases be set by statute for hours of work,
"legislation fixi ng a minimum scale of wages is obviously impracticable. There does not appear t o be any possible device
whereby a minimum can be established . . . ." ~"
So far as Governm ent contract work was co ncerned , t h e Commission took much the same position, condoning limitation of
hours but deeming it "inadvisable t hat the Governmen t should go
so far as to fix rates of wages to be paid by co ntractors on public
" ~4
The Commission was quick to set a firm limit to a ny reduction
in hours, lest "the increased cos t of production would overbalance
I th e] gains." For example, t he Commi ssion ca ution ed, if h ours
were to be r educed "to abs urdly low limits," there wou ld be no
merit in the action . Absurdly low limits were conceived of in
terms of a "5- or 6-hour day." 25

Th e Stee l Sto1·y. As a final item in th is seri es of social vignettes,
a 1913 report of the Commissioner of Labor on working conditions
in the steel industry supplies a com preh ensive picture. The coverage of the study was extensive: more than 300 plants employing
173,000 employees (82 per cent of total industry employment in t he
branches covered) in 26 States.
Almost 30 percent of th e entire work force in 1910 were on a
7-day week; on shift transfer s (from nightwork to daywork or
vice ver sa ), wh ich usually occurred each week or fort ni ght, a man
would work fro m 18 to 24 co nsecutive ho urs. Mor e t han 2 out
of every 5 employees in steelworks and roll in g mills had weekly
hours of 72 or m ore; t he ratio was almost 7 out of 10 in blast
furnaces, where 63 per cent had a wee kly sch ed ule of 84 or more
hours. (By co ntrast, t he aver age workweek in no nfarm indu stri es
as a whole was about 51 hours.)
In 1910, 42 pe r cent of the steelworks a nd rolling-mill employees
were earning less than 18 cen ts an hour. The potential full-tim e
weekly earnings of near ly half of the workers were under $12.50.
In plants which operated 6 months or mo re in 1910, the median of
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


possible a nnual earnin gs was $630. And th e dollar would buy only
about 2½ times as much in 1910 as in 1950.
The punishing hours and low real income wer e only part of the
woes of the steelworkers. Overtime, wh ich affected 30 percent
of the work force, averaged about 6 hours a week above the normal
72. Generally no premium was paid for over time or Sunday work.
There were various deductions from paych ecks, with practices
rangi ng widely. Some of these were for ice water, disablement
funds, medi cal fees, cr edit advanced by com pany stores, r ent for
compa ny houses, and identification badges. Th ere were only two
pension plans in effect. In that of the maj or company, the benefit
was based on 1 percent of th e average regular monthly pay received during the last 10 year s of service multiplied by total year s
of servi ce. Voluntary r etirement commenced at age 60 after 20
years of ser vice. Thus, a man who worked 25 year s and averaged
$60 a month for the last 10 years would receive $15 a month .
Pensions cou ld be t erminated by the trustees.
Company ow ner ship of houses constituted a r eal grievance of
the worker s in those communi t ies in which few other facilities
were available and in which there was li ttle or no inter est in
maintenance or sanitation. Th e report describes one such
company-own ed community thus: "The com pan y owns every
dwelling in th e community, and also owns every acr e of land in
the imm ediate vicinity .. .. It also owns the onl y railroad
entering th e community Iand a finan cial inter est in I the only
store in the community . . . . " "" The r epo r t pointed out that
there was no municipal government; governin g powers we re vested
in the company and in a justice of the peace who was also t he superintendent of schools and the coroner who h eld inquests into accidental death s in th e plant. This individual was quoted as considering him self a compa ny employee.
The housing of officials a nd skilled workers was described as
good. "A ver y different condition exists in the housing of the
large force of un skilled laborers, composed mainl y of Negroes,
Ru ssians, and Hungarians. The steel compa ny properly designates
the abodes it provides for these men as 'shanties.' " •
Workers were generally ha ndi capped in protesting conditions in
the indu stry because large numbers of them co uld not speak English (in 1908 nearly a fourth overall, but in t he Midwest nearly
a third) and because " they are almost entirely without organizat ion . . . . The Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel, and
Tin Workers, it is true, still exist s, but .. . it possesses little
strength, except in a very narrow field." "8
A return to th e world of the 1950's reveals amazing contrasts.
The more tha n 1 million members of the United Steelworkers of

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

America include many of the offspring of the 1910 work force.
The steelworker in mid-1958 has as a minimum a basic hourly rate
in the neighborhood of $2 an hour. He receives a 50 percent
premium for hours in excess of 8 a day or 40 a week. Sunday
work-so resented by his forebears-earns a premium of 25 percent; holiday work warrants a 125 percent bonus. His pension is
contractual, and, after 30 year s' service, it would be at least $72 a
month plus Federal social security benefits. A company-paid s upplement to unemployment insurance benefits helps tide him over
periods of unemployment. He enjoys an annual paid vacationas much as 3 weeks if he has long service. His union contract
provides a formal grievance procedure for him. If the cost of living rises, his wage rates rise in proportion under a union-negotiated
escalator plan. H e is also provided with insurance and welfare

Productivity-Pre requisite of Progress
What alchemy enabled the steelworker to change his status so
surprisingly in half a century? What forces made possible the
rise in buying power of the weekly earnings of factory workers25 percent in the first 3 decades of the century and more than 25
percent in the fourth decade-while the shorter workweek was
adding more and more free time? Or the increase in weekly
spendable earnings (after deducting income and social security
taxes and in constant buying-power dollars) of a factory worker
with 3 dependents from $42 in l 940 to $63 in 1956 ?
There is first of all the golden trace of productivity. As technological changes have made it possible to produce more and more
goods (frequently of better quality) with the same number of
workers, or to produce the same amount with fewer workers,
industry has been able to reduce unit costs of production and at th e
same time shorten " ·ork schedules and r aise \\"ages. Th e worke1·s,
in tun1, have used their increased buying powe r to purchase more
and more goods of a larger variety and their added leisure has
created demand for new goods and ser vices. * Th ese increased
demands have supported rising production levels for which the
necessary manpower has been available partly because some
workers in industri es \\"ith rapidly rising productivity co uld be
released for other employment.
~' The re is some debate among eco nom ists ns to w hich c reate d dema nd fi rst , t he productiv ity or
co ns ump t io n s timulu s

th e p rod uc ti v ity c hi c ke n or t he cons u mpti o n egg.

On e ca n o n]y m a rve l

~t th e ca pacit y of each.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


AUTOMA TI ON- As a res ult of tec hnological advances, in many mode rn
mass- production factories one worker controls an e ntire bank of highly
comp lex and costly machi nery.

Bases for Higher Productivity

The productivity rate a nd th e volume of prod uction in th e Uni ted
St ates a r e unm at ched. Wit h but 6 per cent of th e world's population a nd 7 per cent of th e la nd a rea, th e Nation prod uces m or e
tha n one-third of th e world 's goods. Th e i ndi vidual American
worker 's outpul t oday in a 40-hour week is 3 times that of his
gr a ndfath er in a 70-ho ur work span.
Th e high r ate of power a pplication a nd th e development of tools
and techniqu es have, of course, been basic causes of thi s production
r ecord. Oth er pertin ent r ea sons ar e : (1) the experimental bent
of th e Am erican businessma n in a free enterpri se econom y, his
surprising freedom fro m t r ad it ion a nd custom ; (2) a mobile a nd
adaptable work force; (3) inve nti ve ge nius in product ion m eth ods
a nd devices (more t ha n 40,000 pat ents are usually issued a nnually ); and (4) th e vast st ores of accessible r aw mat erials (supplemented by sy nt hetics ) .
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

The forces of culture development are cumulative, and the
invention of one item to serve a specific use may stimulate new
uses and the need for additional inventions. Americans have been
quick to make invention the mother of necessity. *

Material Benefits
Perhaps the best way to sum up the immediate and tangible
results of a high rate of productivity is to refer to a concrete
budget. A given factory worker's budget for 1948 cost $49.51 a
week at that time. A worker in 1914 would have had to work
about 100 hours a week to buy the things it included; the 1948
worker, less than 34 hours. Moreover, automobiles, radios, television sets, most of the household electrical appliances, frozen
foods, and many other products were nonexistent or beyond the
reach of workers earlier in the century.
Nonfarm workers have perhaps benefited more from rising
productivity than other groups in the population. Certainly, lowincome workers have benefited immeasurably since the beginning
of the 20th century. In 1901, a U. S. Bureau of Labor survey
shows, 42 percent of the workers' families in principal industrial
centers had incomes which were equivalent to less than $2,000 in
1954 purchasing power. The comparable proportion in 1954 was
7 percent, and only one-fifth of all families with income of less than
$2,000 were headed by nonfarm workers.

Social Values
Rising levels of productivity also have important social values
for individuals in the society. A population with advancing techniques and an expanding economy has a wider and more secure
margin for such values as education, social reform, unions and
other free associations, and the use of credit based upon the assurance of growth.

Democracy. Truly, the growth of democracy has been nurtured
by productivity. "The democratic spirit of the American people
has assisted materially in preserving the custom of high wages,"
Levasseur observed in 1900. "The testimony of de Tocqueville
upon this point, given some 60 years ago, before the development
of the labor union, is still worthy of citation: 'I think that, upon
• In this con n ection on e of Lcvasseur's notes of 1893 is a mus ing: "Some time ago I found
myself at Berne in the company of Mr. H oll erith , the Amer ican inve ntor o( a n inge nious
m achine f or tabulating statistical returns. Th e tabulating machine of Mr. Hollerith . . . was
used with economy and success in . . . the Eleventh Census at \.Vashin gto n . . . . In Vie nn a
and Rome, w here wages are much lower, the experie nce . . . was not so favorable. It seems ,
however, that there is a future for this kind of machin(•," [Itali cs supplied .] (The Amer ican
Workman, translated by Thomas S. Adams. Baltimore, The Johns H opkins Press, 1900. pp. 71 , 73.)

471141- 50--3
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


the whole, it may be asserted that a slow and gradual rise of wages
is one of the general laws of democratic communities. In proportion as social conditions become more equal, wages rise; and as
wages are higher, social conditions becomes more equal.' " 29
The tough fiber of the American worker's democratic spirit is
manifest in a healthy skepticism, a fierce predilection to defend his
rights, and a willingness to defer to accepted, democratic pro- ·
cedures in his defense. * These qualities take verbal expression in
familiar phrases of working class vernacular, such as:
Hire a hall.
You and who else?
I'll take it up with the union.

Unionism. The foregoing phrases reflect something of the philosophy of American trade unionism, which rejected a socialist orientation and the theory of class conflict nearly a half century ago and
helped to bring capitalist production to full fruition. Trade union
growth was in part a response to expanding productivity and the
workers' desire to share in it. Trade union strength is an essential
of democratic capitalism, especially in times of stress.
So cial R eform. Some of the distressing conditions described in
this chapter were inevitable in an era when the economy was
rapidly expanding and comparatively undisciplined. But its expansion enabled the Nation to afford reform consistent with the
strong democratic taproots of the social order. The surveys cited
demonstrate the force of fr ee inquiry, for they exposed the worst
problems of the industrial expansion, to which the pioneering
reforms of the decade and a half before World War I were largely
a response. Later reforms have, of course, differed in direction,
since, as Justice Cardozo observed in 1937, "What is critical or
urgent changes with the times." 30 They have all, however,
enhanced prevailing consumption standards and thus leave the
Nation in better position to afford needed future reforms.
Economic " Emancipation" of Women. The "emancipation" of
women, in itself a "reform," freed them for more extensive labormarket participation. The proportion of all workers who are
women rose from less than a fifth to about a third between 1900
and 1956. In the latter year, nearly three-fifths were married,
*J a m es Russell L owell recogn ized th e s ig nifi can ce of these a ttributes w h en h e said th a t
democracy throug h th e com mon ma n had the ha bit of makin g itself "generall y dis ag reeable by
askin g t he P owers That B e at the m ost i nconveni ent m oment whether they are the powers that
oug ht to be." (F rom his a dd ress on 41 D emocracy," October 1864, as quo ted in D em ocracy T oday,
edi ted b y Christian Ga u ss, New York , Scott , F oresman a nd Com pan y, 19 17, p. 31.) And
L evasseu r: "E xcept in Switzerlan d th e se nt iment o f equali ty is n owh ere s o general as in the
Uni ted S ta tes. T his feeling e m bolde ns the la borer in t h e de fen se of his ri gh ts a nd a t the same
t ime p reserves him aga ins t revolutiona ry excf'SS. It has a lso been favo rabl e to the form a tion of
la bor u n ion s w h ich in t u rn h ave served t o keep wages hig h ." ( Op. ci t ., pp. 390-3 91.)

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

and of these, nine-tenths had working husbands. Even when the
incomes of husbands wer e substantial , many wives also held paying jobs. The participation rate of w ives w ith husbands making
between $7,000 and $10,000 a year was 21 percent, a tripling in 5
The extra income of the working wife, by helping to expand
the worker-family consumption pattern, has doubtless hastened
the narrowing of class distinctions in consumption habits. That
women have largely rep laced children as second ary workers in the
labor force has obviously also significant ly changed the consumption habits of workers' families. The needs of a working wife are
obviously somewhat different-with respect to clothin g and personal care, in particular-fro m those of a housewife. And, despite
the shorter workday and even part-time work, t he working wife
must often buy time-in the form of part-time hou sehold help,
la un dr y service, prepared meals, and the like, which the housewife
may dispense with for the sake of economy or as a matter of personal preference. Equally obvious are the differences in the needs
of a child in school from those of a child toiling in a sweatshop.


Another boon to the purchasing power of the worker
family has been the opportunity for schooling, which in t urn helps
to sustain the productive system. Free public school ed ucation
was a goal of the American wage earner from the beginning.
In 1910, only 43 percent of the 16- and 17-year-olds were in
school; by 1950, 74 percent of that age group were in classrooms.
Of the 25- 29 year group in 1950, half had completed at least 12
years of school. In 1956, college enrollment totaled 2.9 millionover 8 tim es the 1910 level. The per centage of the 22-year-old
popul ation \\"ith a college degree in 1955 \\"as 7 times greater than
in 1910; the percentage of 18-year-old s who wer e high school
graduates was 10 times greater.
Education for their children has become so firmly established
as part of their level of living that American parents of all income
classes take a lively and democratic interest in school standards
and curriculums. Parent-teacher associations of the United
States, with more than 11 million members, constitute one of the
largest dues-paying organizations in th e world.

Th e Private Household. Another benefit of the r ise in productivity is that the worker's household today is likely to consist only of
himself, his wife, and their yo unger children, whereas in 1900 it
typically included a boarder, a lodger , or a dependent relative as
well. The formation of h ouseholds has proceeded at a more rapid
rate than the growth of the population; the number of households
incr eased about 205 percent between 1900 and 1956, compared
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


with a 120 percent rise in the population, and the average size of
the household dropped from nearly 5 persons to about 31j3.
Higher earnings and expanding job opportunities made it easier
for single workers to have their own quarters. Furthermore, with
social security payments and private pensions, most parents and
other elderly relatives who are no longer at work can afford to live
in their own household or to go to a home for the aged. About
one-eighth of all households in 1956 were headed by persons living
alone or with people not related to them.
Advertising and Credit. Two further influences on productivity
and demand and levels of living should be briefly mentioned.
These are advertising and credit.
One observer recently wrote: "The 'social function' of advertising is to stimulate wants, to make people work harder and earn
more. In that sense, advertising, and its helpmate the installment
plan, are the two most fearsome social inventions of man since
the discovery of gunpowder." 31
Advertising has vastly stimulated, and often directed, consumer demand, particularly in the markets most dependent upon
the expanding incomes of workers' families-the major group of
the Nation's consumers. To these the producers appeal for consumption of the vast output-not just the electric blanket, but
the electric blanket with dual control. And, while the consumer
may purchase injudiciously as a result of such advertising, he
nevertheless has the protection of laws requiring accurate labeling
of many products and preventing false advertising claims as to
their merits.
How does the American worker satisfy the desires created by
advertising for an avalanche of commodities and services? For
the more expensive items-his house, his car, his furniture, even
his travel-he may clip into his savings, although he is much
more apt to buy on time.
The worker's propensity to buy on time is demonstrated by the
extent of credit used by all United States consumers. In 1956,
installment credit totaled nearly $32 billion and mortgage debt
on nonfarm houses $99 billion-respectively about 30 and 12 times
the 1920 totals. Nearly $14.5 billion of the 1956 installment debt
was for automobiles, and another $8.5 billion was for consumer
goods (mostly such durable items as furniture, which 45 percent
of the families in a 1956 Federal Reserve survey bought on the
installment plan).
Extensive consumer credit is a function of our productive system and has been an increasingly potent force in establishment
of the worker's consumption pattern.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Perhaps the greatest product of productivity itself-the simplest explanation of the cause and effect of this cornucopia-has
been the stimulation of desire. In America there has been a
combination of circumstances, events, and genius to permit the
fullest realization yet of the yearnings of men-what t h e
felicitous-tongued lady from the Labor Department meant, 57-odd
years ago, when she spoke of the bell and t h e bay window.

The Education of Henry Ada.m s, An Autobiography (New York, Book
League Edition, 1928) , pp. 496-497.
R ecent Social Tr ends in the United Stales, Report of th e President's
Research Committee on Social Trends, Vol. 1. (New York, McGraw-Hill
Book Company, Inc., 1933 ), pp. x i-x ii .
Henry Steele Commager, Th e Americcin Mind, An lnterp1·etation of
American Thought ancl Charact er Since the 1880's (New Haven, Yale Un iversity Press, 1950), p. 406.
Witt Bowden, Changes in Modes of Living (in Mo nthly Labo r Review,
5 U. S. Bureau of Labor, Final R eport of the i ndustrial Commission on
the Relations of Capital and Labo1· Employed in Manufactures and Genernl
Business, Vol. XIX of the Commissioner's Report (Washington, Government
Printing Office, 1902), p. 772.
Quoted by W itt Bowden in Ame1·ican Lab or ancl the American Spii-il,
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Bulletin 1145 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1954), p. 3.
' Daniel Bell, The Worker and Hi s Civic Functions (in Monthly Labor
Review, July 1950, pp. 62-63).
• Bell, op. cit., p. 69.
9 Theodore V. Purcell, S. J., The Worker Sp eaks H is Mind on Company
and Union (Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1953), p. 280.
10 By J. Frederick Dewh u rst and A ssociates (New York, The Twentieth
Century Fund, 1955), p. vii.
11 Commission
on Industrial Relations, Final Report and Testimony
Submitted to Congress, Vol. I (Wash ington, Governme nt Printing Office, 191 6),
pp. 413-414.
12 Congress of Industrial Organizations, P1·oceedings, 8th Constit utional
Convention (Washington, 1946), p. 252.
13 Quote<l in Charles and Mary Beard, A Basic History of the United
States (New York, The New Home Library, 1944), p. 411.
U.S. Bureau of Labor, R eport on Conditions of Employment in the Iron
and Steel l nd11st1·y in the United States. Vol. III : Working Conditions
and the Relations of Employers and Employees ( Washington, Government
Printing Office, 1913), p. 84.
15 The Italians in Chicago, A Social and Economic Study, Ninth Special
Report of the Commissioner of Labor (Washington, Government Printing
Office, 1897) .
16 Elsa G. Herzfeld, Family Monographs, The History of Twenty-Four
FCl1nili es Lii,in,<J in the Middl e West Side of New York City (New York, Th e
James Kemper Pr inting Co., 1905), pp . 44-46, 89-94.
Emile Levasse ur, The American Workman, translated by Thomas S.
Adams (Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins Press, 1900), pp. 450-451.
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Ibid., pp. 430-431.
Ibid., p. 72.
20 I bid., pp. 60-61.
2 1 U.S. Bureau of Labor, Report of the h uluslrial Commission on the
Relations of Capital and Labor Employed in Mamifacliires and General Business, Vol. VII of the Commissioner's Report (Vi1a shington, Government
Printing Office, 1901), p. 2.
22 Ib id., pp. 27ff.
23 Ibid., Vol. XIX, p. 737.
2 4 Ibid., p. 746.
2 5 Ibid., p. 773.
26 U.S. Bureau of Labor, R eport on Conditions of Employment in the Iron
ancl Steel Industry in the United States, op. cit., p. 420.
21 I bid., p. 424.
2 8 Ibid., p. 15.
20 Levasseur, op. cit., pp. 365- 366.
3o Quoted by Arthur J. Altmeyer in The Worker's Quest for Security ( in
Monthly Labor Review, July 1950, p. 33).
3 1 Daniel Bell, The Impact of Adverti sin g (in The N ew L eader, Feb. 11 , 1957,
p. 9).


Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


The Broadening Base of Consumption
All of the acts which constitute the existence of a
working family sooner or later tend to influence its
income ancl its expenses.
-Frederic Le Play.

As the 20th century dawned, the relatively advantageous position of city workers in the United States was strongly attested
by the large and rapidly accelerating inflow of people, even from
nations most nearly resembling our own in the opportunities and
status of workers. American workers' levels of living have continued to be enviably high. Comparisons of the buying power of
an hour's work in the United States and 16 other coun tries in 1949
in respect to basic items of food showed only one nation, Australia,
ahead of the United States. "If nonfood items were included,"
observed an outstanding student of productivity, "the comparisons
would undoubtedly be even more favorable to the United States." 1
The rise in the American workers' levels of living, outlined in
broad terms in this chapter, is described in detail in subsequent
chapters. Similarly, only the most fundamental and pervasive
causes of the rise are touched upon here.
The broad analytical approach used here, and indeed, the remarkable progress shown in workers' levels of living, may predispose us to view too much in the shadow the worker of 1900 and to
see too much of the present's rosy tints. This is particularly true
in a volume dealing with workers as consumers, which must rely
h eavily on materialistic measures of the well-being of the typical
or average worker. These measures show such great advances
since the beginning of the 20th century that the anal yst tends to
lose sight of the problems which accompanied the change and to
look only for its explanations.
Even when an explanation is sought for the comparatively unfavorable current situation of such groups as racial minorities, the
unskilled, some groups of white-collar employees, and retired
workers, one is overwhelmed by the improvements that have
occurred in their status-much more remarkable in many cases
than those reflected in the measures of the average worker's level
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


of living. Thus, the groups at the lower end of the income scale
are somewhat nearer the average today than formerly. Nevertheless, a word of caution is in order. Even though the authors
of the various chapters have pointed to substandard levels of
living, where they exi st, the need to rely primarily on averages
may have resu lted in an unintentional overdrawing of the contrast
between today and 1900.

The standards of living of workers' families in the United States
have been progressively higher than their actual levels of living.*
This traditional bent of American wage earners, as well as other
America ns, to think in terms of rising standards and to devise
methods for translating their ambitions into actual levels of
living, has been an important r eason for the continual betterment
of their way of li ving. Moreover, it has been instrumental in
reforms of such bad conditions as slums, child labor, sweatshops,
excessive work schedules, and many others.
The workers' gains as consumers were and are primarily contingent, however, on their command of purchasing power to translate their ambitions for betterment into effective demand. Such
demand means money; and for city workers, wages and salaries
account for all but a small fract ion of their incomes. But real
incomes can ri se s ubstantially only if people are able to buy more
of the things they want. This, in turn, is dependent on rises in
t h e volume of goods produced in the same unit of working time.
Estimates made by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in early 1958
indicated that the increase in the total private product per manhour, in terms of monetary values adjusted to eliminate the effects
of price changes, totaled 164 percent between 1909 and 1956.
Those estimates indicate an average increase of more than 2
percent per year.
Hardly less important than the rise in productivity is recognition of the fact that volume of production may fall even when
productivity is rising, as when unemployment is increasing or
when, from any cause, t h ere is a considerable reduction in manhours of productive labor in relation to the total population. It is
also important to recall that the total volume of production is not
the same, by any means, as the production available for current
consumption; war requirements, for example, or deferred invest*Th e ter m "levels o f li v in g " in p ro fessional pa rla nce re lates to how we actua ll y li ve; "stand •
ard s o f 1i v in g" to th e co nditi o ns we think fi tt in g a nd proper for oursel ves to en joy. This useful
dis tin ctio n- mo re elegantl y s ta ted- has bee n reco mmen ded for in ter na ti ona l use by t he U n ited
N at io ns.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

ment needs, or assistance to other nations, may reduce for a time
the proportion of output available for current consumption.
In the long run, however, the average of th e actual purchasing
power or real income of the consumers as a whole, and even of a
large group such as city workers and their fam ilies, sustains a
fairly stable relationship to productivity or to the average output
of workers. The average per worker has, of course, risen less
rapidly than t h e average of man-hour outp ut because hours per
worker have been greatly reduced.

Fortunately for the purposes of long-run comparisons of income,
the Commissioner of Labor's survey of the incomes and expenditures of city workers' fami lies for the year 1901 provides a
comparable start. Furthermore, the Bureau of Labor had by then
developed the collecting of r etail price data, especially for foods,
to such an extent as to make feasible a comparison not merely of
monetary income but also of equivalent buying power over the
period since 1901. The var ious official surveys of the spending
and saving of worker s' fami lies provide our primary sources of
information on changes in levels of living. (See chapter X.)
The last general survey of city workers' family income and
expenditures by th e Bureau of Labor Statistics was made for the
year 1950. However, a r easonably accurate proj ection for 1956
can be mad e by using trends shown in fam ily income data collected
by the Bureau of the Census. The following tabulation shows
income per family and per family member for 1901, 1950, and
1956, converted into dollars of 1950 buying power and expressed
as percentages of 1950 income.* The gain per famil y member
has been substantially larger, primarily because the family of the
1950's consists of an average of slightly more than 3 per sons,
compared with 4 per sons in 1901. Another r eason for the larger
gain per family m emb er is that only about 1 of ever y 20 married
A ,,rragc nrt in ro mr ns a percent
o r 1950 bu yi ng power


] !)() ]

P er famil y ____ _
P er farn ily me m her_

- -

1% 0




11 9

*1901 data are from U.S. Departme nt of Commerce and La bor, Eig hteenth Ann ual R epo rt of
the Commissioner of Labor, Cos t of Li v ing a nd R eta il Prices of F'ood; 195 0 da ta from Monthl y
Labor R ev iew, September 1956, Sta nd ards a nd Leve ls of Li v in g of City.W orker F a mili es, by
Faith M . Willi am s; 1956 da t a based on t r e nd in urban fa mil y in com e , 1950 to 1956, reported in
U . S . Bureau of t he Cen s us, Curre nt P opulatio n Reports, Series P - 60, Nos. 9 and 26.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


women worked outside the home in 1901, but by 1956 the ratio
had risen to about 3 of every 10. Apparently the wife's added
contributions to the family income had more than offset the loss
of earnings due to the later entrance of children into the labor
Wages and Salaries
Family incomes naturally differ somewhat in trend from the
wages or salaries of individuals. There is a varying number of
wage earners per family; and nonwage income, though rarely
significant, is not a constant proportion of the incomes of workers.
The trends, nevertheless, should be similar.
The tracing of the trend of "composite" wages and salaries for
the entire period since 1901 has been undertaken by the ingenious
putting together of a variety of official but fragmentary data.
There are available also two other indexes covering more limited
areas in a much more precise manner, namely, union hourly wages
in the building trades and average weekly earnings in manufacturing. For comparison with th e family income series, these three
series are presented for the same years, again in terms of income
in constant buying-power dollars.':'


Income as a percen t or 1950
buying power

Composite or wages and salar ies . . . . ___ _
Unio n ho url y rates in buildin g trades __
A ve rage wee kl y earni ngs in rn:1nu fac turin g __ _





11 9

The computations given above tend to validate each other as
evidence not only of the general trend but also of the approximate
extent of the gains in real income. Because of the reductions in
hours of work, the weekly earnings series affords a particularly
significant comparison with the trend of income per family.
Nonmonetary Income
The increase in family incomes, reflecting mainly the rise in
wages and salaries, is by no means the whole story of the expanded
basis of material well-being. At the beginning of the century,
*The t h ree series, w ith n o tes on sources, are g iven t o 1947 in Em ploym en t a nd W ages in t h e
United Stat es, by W . S. W oytin sk y and Assoc ia tes, pp . 584 -586 . Th e bu ildin g trades seri es a nd
that of f a ctor y weekly earnin gs w e r e ex t ended to 1956 by use of Burea u of Labor Statist ics da t a;
th e "com pos ite" index is regu larl y compu ted a nd publish ed by t h e F edera l R eserve Ba nk of
N ew York. Ad justm e n ts for price ch anges in t h e est imates for 1950 a nd 1956 are of cou rse
m ade by u se of t h e offic ia l Consumer Price I ndex.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

women, it is true, contributed more largely than nowadays to
fami ly living by household work and rendering some of the
services-baking bread, for example-that now commonly exact
a part of the family income.
Of greater significance, however, is the fact that worker s in
1900 obtained from employers virtually nothing but wages and
from governments little save such elementary items as police
protection and basic schooling and some extremely limited community facilities. P resent-day workers obtain from their employers, in addition to their wages, a wide range of "fringe" benefits and, as a rule, a priceless asset of mutuality-union recognition, collective bargaining, grievance procedures-a "humanizing" of labor-management relationship . From governments they
receive-albeit not without some cost to themselves-the complex
of benefits associated with the term social security, not oth erwise
obtainable and now regar ded as indispensable. Governments also
provide a vastly wider range of community facilities and of r ecreational as well as educational a dvantages.
Narrowing of Income Differentials
Fringe benefits such as sick leave, paid vacations, group insurance funds, hospitalization, and medical care (some of t he more
important benefits) usually constitute, for workers with relatively
sma ll wages or salaries, a comparatively lar ger supplement to ba ic
wages than for better paid workers. Even more significant in the
equalizing trends are the advantages accruing from workmen's
compensation and other social security measures and from other
highly varied advances s uch as impro ved safety, sanitation, lunch
fac ilities, reduced hours of work. Public schools, community
facilities, parks, highways, are available to all. In a word, such
supplements, although varying in some degree with differences in
direct monetary compensation, have become nevertheless a highly
significant equalizing force.
Since the beginning of the century there has also been a substantial narrowing of occupational differentials in rates of pay.
In 1907, skilled workers in manufacturing received more than
double the pay of unskilled workers, by midcentury, less than 50
percent more. Similar trends occurred outside of manufacturing;
the estimated union hourly wage rates of laborers in the building
trades, for example, averaged 21 cents in 1907 and the journeymen's average was 42 cents; in 1957, the laborers' average had
risen to $2.45, or 72 percent of the journ eymen's rate of $3.39.
Various other differentials h ave been significantly narrowed.
Exacting and detailed researches summarized in a Twentieth Cen-
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


tury Fund volume 2 have led to the conclusion that, in addition to
skill differentials, the following kinds of disparities have been
greatly reduced:
1. Geographical differentials-the contrast between primarily
agrarian, low-wage regions and industrialized, highwage areas.
2. Industrial differentials-the contrast between low-wage
and high-wage pursuits, particularly between agriculture
and urban industries and between manual and whitecollar workers.
3. Racial differentials-differentials against Negro workers.
Some of the causes of the narrowing of differentials are apparent; others are intricate and elusive. Technological changes
(the mechanizing of railroad trackwork, for example, and even of
the building custodian's jobs) progressively reduced the demand
for heavy unskilled manual work, while concurrently better educational opportunities were raising the levels of competence. More
recently, the routinized, semiskilled jobs, so prominent in the
earlier stages of mechanization, have declined in relative numbers
with the perfecting of mechanical devices and automatic controls.
The restricting of immigration and consequent easing of the competitive struggle for jobs would also seem to be an evident cause.
In addition, differentials by industry, by region, and by size of
firm have been reduced by collective bargaining, by minimum wage
laws (notably the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended),
and by the increased mobility and wider range of choice on the part
of jobseekers.,:,

Taxes and Purchasing Power
Most of the surveys of family incomes and expenditures take
account of personal taxes. Those taxes are deducted because
they reduce the amount of income the recipient, as an individual,
is free to use as he sees fit. The Federal income tax and State
and local income or payroll taxes, _are, of course, direct personal
taxes reflected in the "income after taxes" concept but only partially in "net spendable earnings."
Much more significant is a recognition of "value received" for
tax dollars. To the extent that governments provide services of
value to citizens, taxes may be viewed as measures of improved
welfare. Public education, clinics and other public health facilities,
*H arry M. Dou ty, in his discuss ion of different ia ls a nd their causes in the 1957 edition of t he
Occupat ion al Ou tlook H a ndbook , cautions aga in s t oversimplificat ion . Some differen tia ls, h e n otes
(p. 43). comprise "an extraordin a ril y complex s ub ject." The com plex ity extends, indeed, to a
dis tinction between those differen t ials w hi ch , in our system, a re in tdnsicall y equitable a nd those
t hat are merely tradit ional surviva ls.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

water systems, parks and playgrounds, libraries, sanitation,
maintenance of minimum standards of safet y and other standards,
the administration of social security programs, the expanding
complex of endowments and nongovernmental agencies for social
betterment exempted from taxes-these are some of the faci lities
and services (aside from national defense) that have come into
being or have been vastly expanded on a tax-supported or tax-free
basis during the present century. By and large, t h ey are services
which private industry has not historically provided or could
furnish much less economically.
Th ere arr adlliti ollal payments to go,·e,·n rnent i11 111an.r local iti1·~.

representing direct charges for goods and services furnished to
individual consumers, such as water, garbage disposal, electric
power, gas, local transportation, and postal facilities. These items
should be consider ed in the same light as payments for any other
goods and services, rather than as a cost of government.
Indirect taxes, those not levied directly on persons, account for
much of th e tax burden. At the Federal level, they are represented
by tariffs, manufacturers' and processors' taxes, and corporation
income taxes. State a nd local governments rely primarily on
property taxes and sales and use taxes.
The impact of indirect taxes on consumers generally, and
especially on a particular group such as city workers, is beyond
precise analysis; a major difficulty is the highly variable extent
of passing the taxes on to cons umers. One recent rough estimate
sets nonpersonal t axes at about 15 per cent of income for people
in the $3,000- $7,500 income r ange, which includes the great
majority of city wage earner s' families.
For 1950, the Bureau of Labor Statistics survey indicates that
personal taxes accounted for about 7 percent of city workers'
family income, compared with 0.09 percent in 1917-19, the earliest
date for which a comparable figure is available. The incidence of
personal taxes varied considerabl y in 1950, depending on income.
Thus, it was 4.7 percent for families in the $2,000 and under $3,000
income class, 8 percent for the $5,000 and und er $6,000 class, and
9.1 percent for the gro up in the $6, 000 and under $7,500 bracket.

Savings, Credit, and Economic Security
There have been important changes, over the decades, in the
extent to which workers set aside part of their incomes as savings
to meet future needs, or use consumer credit to buy things they
might not have purchased out of current income. Early in the
20th century, there were many incentives for the city worker's
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


family to accumulate a cash reserve, since its only resources in
emergencies such as unemployment were either savings or the earnings of other family members.
Workers' families in 1901 put into direct cash savings larger
portions of their earnings than most families save today. About
half of all families reported a significant surplus, and only 1 family
in 6 a deficit. The average surplus, for families which had one,
was about $121-quite a large amount in comparison with the
fami ly head's wages; almost 10 weeks' pay.
The current situation is quite different. In 1950, the city worker
family's average expenditure of $3,925 for current consumption
was almost exactly equal to its income of $3,923 after taxes. In
early 1957, a survey covering a representative group of families
in all occupational categories showed that about 3 out of 5 had
some personal or installment debt, not counting mortgages and
charge accounts; about 1 in 3 had debts of more than $500. About
2 out of every 3 families in the typical wage-earner income range
($3,000- $5,000) had some personal debts. Liquid assets (savings
accounts, Government bonds, etc.) were less than debts in about
half the families, but one-third had liquid savings with no debts.
The greater readiness of today's worker to incur debt reflects
several changes. The fear of unemployment, which reached its
peak in the depression of the 1930's, has been mitigated by the
inauguration of public policies providing protection against economic insecurity, collective agreements for easing the impacts of
layoffs and discharges, and the increased mobility of workers with
a widened range of choice of jobs.
Public policies include a nationwide employment service and a
closely related system of unemployment insurance. In 1955, the
employment service made over 6 million nonfarm job placements.
Employment in jobs covered by unemployment insurance averaged
over 36.5 million.
Provisions covering layoff and worksharing procedures applied
to about three-fourths of the workers covered by major collective
bargaining agreements in effect in late 1954 and 1955. In addition,
over 2 million workers are currently employed under agreements
which provide supplemental unemployment benefits designed to
maintain the unemployed worker's income at 60 to 65 percent of
his usual earnings for as long as 6 months or a year.
Moreover, by temperament, Americans are a mobile people. This
characteristic, together with a wide ownership of automobiles,
enables workers to seek employment wherever prospects seem
good. About one-fifth of the population of the United States
moved to a different dwelling in each of the 9 years following 1947.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Defenses against economic insecurity are provided also by
other phases of the social security system, notably the old age
and survivors' insurance program. In 1955, a total of 66 million
workers worked at some time during the year on jobs covered
by the program, which in that year paid benefits to nearly 5.5
million retired workers and dependents of such workers and more
than 2 million survivors. Workmen's compensation, under State
laws, assures most wage earners of benefits, limited and lacking
in uniformity but nevertheless highly important. Also worthy of
mention are the temporary disability insurance programs for
workers on railroads and in 4 States and the provision of paid sick
leave for Federal civilian and military personnel as well as for the
employees of some State and city governments. Other security
bulwarks are private insurance and pension plans, usually under
collective bargaining agreements. Basically, the reliance of workers on these defenses against disability, unemployment, and dependent old age, and on additional measures when needed, springs
from the public policy embodied in the Employment Act of 1946
and in the reiterated bipartisan pledges of national action consistent with the policy of that act.
The social security programs and the vast expansion of insurance, especially group insurance, provide in themselves a form
of workers' saving that has been described as "automatic."
Furthermore, the greatly increased buying of homes and substantial types of durable goods requires a highly significant kind of
saving. In earlier generations, most workers had to do without
homes of their own and found it necessary to put off the buying of
durable goods for long periods while they were trying to
accumulate the necessary savings. Present-day workers, by means
of amortization and gradual payment, are able to "save" while
actually living in the homes and using the automobiles for which
they are paying.

Ability to obtain goods and services in addition to the basic
necessities is probably the most widely accepted criterion of consumer well-being. A corollary proposition, however, has been a
more convenient analytical tool: As buying power (real income)
rises, the proportion of income devoted to necessities declines.
Conversely, of course, consumers are able to increase the share
of income spent for other goods and services (variously designated
as secondary necessities, conveniences, and luxuries) as their
command of purchasing power increases. These propositions had
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


an early a nd lasting effect on analysis of data from the consum er
expenditure surveys.*

Expenditure Patterns in Six Surveys
The influ ence of these ideas was particularly evident in the
surveys of fam ily incomes and expenditures for 1874- 75, 188891, and 1901, which were directed by Carroll D. Wright, a contemporary of Ernest Engel, the Prussian statistical official who
formulated the ideas. Tables 1, 2, and 3 sh ow the effect of this
clearly, having been constructed on lines suggested by the classification of cons umption expenditu res originally used in these 3
studies. The 3 other surveys used liberally in th is volume, those
for 1917-19, 1934-36, a nd 1950 (tables 4, 5, and 6), were not explicitly concerned with Engel's propositions. They were in fluenced, however, by the same spirit of inquiry; in procedures, they
resembled Wright's earlier surveys; and in content, they cast a
revealing li ght on the basic question studied by Engel and Wright,
namely, the importance of a margin for spendin g beyond the subsistence level.
The im mense detail of those six surveys has limited their use
except by specialists. The accompa nying tables embody efforts to
make readily visible th e main outlines of the several surveys. The
analysis deals chiefly with the surveys shown in tables 3 through
6, because they are more nearly representative and more indicative
of continuity, and all within t he present century. **
The city worker s for whom fam ily income and expenditure data
are presented in t hese four tables are wage earners and lower
salaried clerical or sales employees.t Together with t heir families, these workers currently make up about three-fourth s of the
population and labor force in urban areas. They comprise twot hird s of all employed fam ily h eads in the Nation as a whole.
*On e of t h e stated purposes of a n 1875 Mass a c husetts ex pend it u re survey was a test ing of t h e
v alidi ty of co nsumption " laws" for mula ted by Ch r istia n L o r en z Er n est En g el , di recto r of t he
Pru ss ian Bu r ea u of S tat is ti cs and a n emin e n t 19th cen t u ry consum ptio n eco n o mist, w ho was
n oted, as a P r u ssian , for a libera l interest in labor's p roble m s . B ased o n Euro p ean s tud ies d u r ing
t h e 1860's a nd refl ect in g t he ex penditure patt er ns t hus revea led , t h ese " Ja w s" as s t ated b y
Carroll D. Wri g h t (th en h ead of t h e Ma ssachu setts Bu reau of Statis ti cs of L a bor and subsequ e ntl y U. S. Commi ss ion er of L a bor ) held t hat a s in co m e incr eased, t he propo r t ion d evoted to:
( 1) food d ecr eased ; (2) s h elter a nd fu el 1·om a ine<l in v a r ia bly the sam e; (3) clothin g s ta yed about
th e sa m e; a nd (4) su ndri es (all othe r categor ies o f co n sumptio n ) i n creased. Like a ll s u cceed in g
s tudi es i n t he Uni ted S t ates, t he Mass a ch use t ts s ur vey co nfi r m ed th e firs t a nd fourth o f t h ese
pro pos it ion s and dem o ns trated t hat t he seco nd a nd t hird wer e not va lid- a t least in ou r econo m y.
** fnf o r rn at io n is g ive n in t h e fina l ch a p ter rega rdin g t h e ori g in s, pu rposes . p rocedures u sed ,
a n d li m itatio ns of co mpara b ili ty a ffectin g t h e sever a l s u rv eys, sta nd a r d burlgets, a nd th e co nt inui ng seri es of estimates of total perso n a l co nsu m ption expendi t u res.
t About a quarter o f t he persons in t h e urba n la bor force today are n ot "c ity wor ke r s" as t he
te rm is use d in t his ch a p te r . Th is qu a r ter co ns is ts m a inly of pro f essio n a l a nd techni ca l workers
or ma n agers, p roprieto r s, a nd self-em p loyed per so ns. A lso excluded a r e t he relat ive ly s m a ll
num bers of do m estic servan ts, farmwo rk ers, n nd in ex p erie n ced workers who Ji ve in urba n areas.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

A graphic view of th e successively higher levels of living for
city workers is given in chart 1. The chart relies on group averages, which comprise, of course, significant differences. It nevertheless reveals real progress; for the average or typical family
represents, at the several periods, substantially comparable groups
of urban workers. In view of the narrowing of wage differentials
in a variety of ways, previously described, the "average" worker
of today is more significantly typical of his group than was the
average in the earlier surveys.
The tables demonstrate the ever-widening margin of r eso urces
available for conveniences and luxuries that wage earners and
clerical workers were able to command after obtaining the basic
necessiti es. Chart 1 "pictures" the advance. In terms of " sundries" as defined in 1875, workers have been able to increase the
proportion allocable to this category from a bare 6 cents of each
dollar to 43 cents in 1950. Between 1901 and 1950, the proportion
more than doubled (from 20.1 percent to 43 .0 percent)-in itself
a revolutionary rise in living levels. Moreover, the 1901 study was
the first which can be considered representative of city workers

l .- Cons11 111plio11 c.r pcnditures of .fa 111 iliPS of wage Nt/"/IPl"S
/o wns i n 11/assachnsetls, hu iwmne class, 1S71, - 75

6/irs and

111. {:j

1 ncom c class

.\ II








an d

un drr

ll lH l l'r




-- -.--$600


1mct er

a nd

fl lld

und er

O\' l' I'

$ 1.200

$ 1. l flO

------ - ~ - - ~ - - --- - -N um bC'r or fa n1ilir s ______ _
AVC' ragc family size __
A\' Cnll!C an nn al morwy income 1____ ____ ___ ___ _____

f>. l
$; 53

Total e xpr11dit11 rPs for currrnt cons11 111ption ___ _____ _
Su hs istcnce 2__ _ __ _ _ __ _ _ ___ __ _

I 17

JOO. 0
58. 0
14. 0
Jf,. 0

100. 0
64. 0
i. 0
20. 0
6. 0
3. 0

C loth in g ______ ____ __ ___ ___ __
RcnL ___ _
FucL __


___ _

Bundr y cx rwn scs _______ __ _
Perc.:('nt of ex penditures for currcnl eo11s u111ptio n __

Su bs is tcr1ec 2 _ _ _ _ __ _ _ _ _ _ _ ______ _ _ _
C lothin g _______ __ _________ _ __ ____ _
Hc11 L __

F ucL - Sun d r y rx pcn st>s. _



r.. 0



.\. 0

!i. 2

4. 8

T>. ;j

fi. g


$fi j !)

$87 1

$ ), 383





$1. 2 12














!llO. 0
/i:I . ()
10. :J
l fl.!i
(i. 0

100. 0

,,o. o

100 . 0
56. 0

l lJO. 0
.\ ). 0

14 . 0
14 . 0
(>. 0

I !\. 0

17. 0
G. 0
f, 0

l tl. 0
1.1. 0


R. 0

5. 0

1 At t l1is period, }.fassachus1•tts was amo n g th e Rtall•S whrre wage eanwrs and ch•ri cal workl'!'s rrrci\·cd
incomes which w1..•re high rC'lati\·e to most S t:1.lrs .
2 Jn cl11 des rood, kerosene o il , a nd provis io n s 00 1111110 11 ly pu rchased in groecr~1 stor('S.
NOTE: fte tn s m ay not add to totals hrcn usc o r roundi ng. A \· ex 1w1 ul il urrs fo r :11\ ca l('goril•S t•xcppt,
fu el by a ll inco m e classes combined difff•r hy a few do lla rs from those shown r·lst•w licre in tl1c soun·P.
SO URCE: D r riY ed from t he Sixth An1111a l Rrport on the S t at istics o r Lnhor, Com1110 11wealth of J\fassach u setts , Public Doc ument :-lo. 3 1 ( Bos ton, 1875) , P ar t IV , pp . 221 - 35-1, 441.

471141- 50- -4
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Cho r1


Ma ssachu set ts, 187 4-7 5

j United

S tate s, 1901



/ '),.;'


_ __ _




Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Differences by income class are of course considerable. The
tables provide information on the distribution of worker families
in the sample by income as well as insight into the effects of income
differentials on expenditure patterns. They also show th e number
of families or consumer units included in th e sample for each
class. In a ddition to the light the figures sh ed on family income
distributions, they provide a basis for appraising the reliability
of the averages shown.

2.- Consumplion r.r,penrli:t11res of "normal familie.~"
induslr ies, 2 by income class, 1888-9 1


of workers in 9 basic

Income class

incom e









under under
--------- $200

:\'umber o r families _______
A veragc family size __ _________ ______ _

3. 9

Average annual money income ______


Total expenditures for current con~
Sumptio n __________________________
Food ___ ________ ____ ____ ,, _______
Housing __ ________ ___ ____ ---- --Fuel and light_ ____ __ _
Cloth ing ___ --------··---- _______
Sundries ___ ______________________

Percent o r expendit ures for current
consumption _______ __________ ___ __
Food _____ ----- - - --- ---- -- ---- -Housing __________ _____ __________
F uel and light - - ----- - - - - - - -- - - Clothing ________ ____________ ____
Sundr ies ___________ ____________ _







$ 1,200



- - - - -- - -

3. 4
$ 156

3. 7

I , 168
~ 3. 9

3. 9

4. 1

4. 2
$ 1,064

4. 3
$ 1, 450



2 12







15 1

$ 1, 128

41. 0
15. 0
15. 4
22. 7

100. 0
49. S
l !i. 5
7. 7
12. 9
14 . 2

45. 5
14. 9
7. 2
14 . 0
18. 5

100. 0
44. 5
15. 3
6. 5
14 . 7
18. 9

40. 3
15. 6
5. 6
22. 5

100. 0
36. 3
15. 5
IG. 0
27. 2

100. 0
33. 6
14. 4
4. 3
17. 2
30. !\

28. 6
3. 0
15. 7
40. 1

11 6



1 As defined for the survey, a "normal family" had a husband and wi fe, no mo re t. han fi ve children and none
over age 14, no boarders or dependents; did not own its dwelling place; and reported expenditures for rent,

fuel, light ing, clothing, and food.
z Pig iron; har iron ; steel; bituminous coa l; coke; iron ore; cotton; woolen; and ghss .

NOTE: Itrms may not add to to tals hccause o f rounding.

SOURCE : Derived fro m Sixth and Seve nth Annual Reports of the Commiss ioner of Labor, Cost of Prod uc
lion: Iron, Steel, Coal, etc. (Washington, 1891, 1892), Part III.

Changes in Actual Buying Power
The division of expenditures among the several kinds of goods
and services, for which the dollar figures reported in the original
sources suffice, is the main emphasis in this chapter. However,
any realistic evaluation of workers' welfare must also take into
account the effect of price changes on their purchasing power.
Therefore, figure s on average income and outlays for current
consumption have been converted into dollars of 1950 purchasing
power for each of th e surveys since 1888- 91, and these are shown
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Chart 2 .


I$1,000-$2,000 Inco me

I$2,000 -$3,000 Income


I$6,000 -$7,500 Income

f\ ECA





l Income after taxes
for all 6 classes

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis




in table 7. Only total expenditures and food could be converted
in the two earliest surveys because official price indexes for other
major categories of expenditures are not available before 1913.
Data relate to wage and clerical workers' families in large cities;
for this reason, those for 1950 do not correspond to those shown in
table 6, which also include such families in suburbs and small
Comparison of the figures in 1950 dollars with current income
and expenditures reported at the time of the earlier surveys (tables
2 through 5) indicates significant improvements. Although the
rise in prices cut the purchasing power of each dollar by 66 percent
between 1901 and 1950, for example, incomes ro e enough to support the purchase of 21; 1 times as many goods and services in
physical quantity terms. And the volume of purchases commanded
by the workers' buying power had almost doubled, even since the
end of World War I. Thus, although the proportion of total expenditures goi ng for necessities had decreased, the smaller share
would buy larger quantities or better qualities of these required
items. Similarly, the fact that the share of outlays going for
other items (the "sundries" of earlier surveys) has more than
doubled assumes added significance when it is considered that the
number of dollars allocated to such purchases now commands
nearly 3 times the quantity it did in 1917- 19.

The 1950 Survey: Additional Detail
For each survey, the appropriate table is designed to provide a
summary view of key data relating to city workers at the time
of the survey. Perhaps a special value attaches to the 1950
survey data relating to expenditure distributions at different levels
or ranges of income. Those distributions (table 6) provide the
basis for chart 2, which exclu des t hree of the less numerous income classes, primarily for convenience.
The 3 groups not represented in the chart are the lo,vest income
class (less than $1,000 income after personal taxes) and the 2
high e t ($7,500 and under $10,000 and $10,000 and over). Corresponding classes are often omitted in such analyses of the wageearner and clerical-worker groups, because the fami lies sampled
represent a small proportion of all such consumer units. In this
case, less than 4 percent of the sample are eliminated. Each of the
remaining 6 classes includes not less than 5 percent of the total
sample and ranges up to almost a third (31.1 percent) fa lling in
the $3,000 and under $4,000 bracket in 1950.
The graphic analysis of the allocations of expenditures by each
of these 6 income classes in 1950 in chart 2 is analogous to that
shown for the 6 different surveys in chart l. The similarities of
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis





3.-Consumption ex penditu res of " normal families"
All income



i n princ ipal industrial centers in 33 States, by i ncom e cla ss, 1901
I n come class


U nd er

$200 a nd

$300 a n d


un drr

$400 a nd $.100 a nd $600 a nd $700 a nd $800 and $!JOO and $1,000 a n d $1,100 a nd l$ 1,200 a n d
un<l er
und er
w ·1dcr
ov er
$ 1,000
--- ---- ---- - --- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- - --- ---- ---$300

N umb1•r of famili es ___________________
A verage famil y s ize __ _______________ __
A monry income _______________

I I, 156

4. 0
$65 1

3. 2

11 5
3. 4

$ 196


JOO. 0
50. 8
16. 9
(l. i

100. 0
47. 3
18. 0

1, 67(i
3. 8


2. 264
3. 9

2, 336
3. 9

2, 094
4. 0

4. I

4. 2



4. 3

4. 0


'J'otal rx prndi lures for current con$6 18
11 2


100. 0
4:l. I
18. I
4. t)

13 0
20. I

15. 6

21 8










I. I

1 3; 1

$389 1

8. i

JOO. 0
48. I
18. 7
6. 0
I. l
10. 0









11 9



41>. 9
18. (i
5. 5

1 As definrd for the sun·ey, a "normal famil ~-" had a husband at ,York , a wife, not
morr th rrn 5 rhilclrrn and none o,·e1 ngf' 14 , no dependent, boarder, lodger, or sern1nt ;
and had rx pend itures for rent, furl , li ghting , food, clothing, and sundrirs.
2 Xot a,·ai lab le .
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis




11. 4
16. 5

100. 0
4(i. 2
18. 4
5. I
I. I
12. 0
17. 2

?\O TE :

100. 0
43. 5
18. 5
4. 6
12. 9 1
19. 4


100. 0
4 1. 4
18. 2
4. I
I. 5I
21. G

3 19

$8 16
11 7



$1 , 052

100. 0
4 1. 4

100. 0
38. 8

:1. 9

100. 0
39. 9
17. fi
3. 8

I. I

I. I

37. 7
16. G
3. 6
14. 9
2G. l

3fi. 4
17. 4
3. 8
I. 2
15. 7
25. 4

1'i . 1


23. o


14 . 4
23. 2

17. 5

3. S
I. 2
15. I
23. 7



Item s mar not add to totals hrrcrn se of ro und ing.

SOL' ll CE: Cos t of LiYing a nd R etail Pri ces of Food, Eighteenth Annual R eport of

t he Co mmissioner of L abo r (\\·ashin glo n, 1903) , pp. 58 1,592, 593.

these charts ar e immediately evident: the proportion of total
expenditures available for "sundries" rises steadily as income
rises; conversely, the proportion spent for food declines-in 1950,
from 35.8 percent in the $1,000 and under $2,000 class to 27.3
percent in the $6,000 and under $7,500 group.
Food and shelter (housing plus fuel, light, and refrigeration),
which may be regarded as basic necessities, in 1950 took about 55
cents per dollar in the lowest income class shown and just over
40 cents in the highest. Moreover, the decline progressed smoothly
and steadily.
Certain consumption groups exhibit a similar progressive percentage decline with rising levels of income. Among them ar e
medical care, tobacco, and personal care. The evidence of the
1950 and earlier surveys is that tobacco showed just this pattern,
which may mean that tobacco users regard it as a necessity, but
as income increases they are able to satisfy this requirement for
a smaller share of their total expenditures. Medical and personal
care traditionally have absorbed approximately constant proportions of income (or expenditures ) at each income level. The
change in their patterns in 1950 probably was due in part to the
rise in real incomes and the consequently greater margins available
beyond basic needs. The sharp increase in medical care insurance,
too, may have played a part in enabling families to devote smaller
shares of income to medical care.
Except for the two lowest income classes shown (where the same
percentage held), clothing expenditures in 1950 took an increasing
share of the total expenditur es as income rose. In this respect,
it "behaved" like a convenience or luxury. This steady rise also
characterized such consu mption groups as a utomobile ownership
and operation, recreation, and alcoholic beverages.
The diff erences in spending patterns among income groups in
1950 were smaller, it will be noted, than the differences from time
to time for the entire group. One obvious, tangible cause is the
entry into the market, over the decades, of new items of consumption-the automobi le, for example. Workers 50 year s ago may
now and then have dreamed of buying cars; workers today
throughout the ranges of income act ually buy them. The buying
of cars today makes no great difference in th e expenditure patterns of worker s in the differ ent ranges of income. The group
as a whole in 1950 used 11.5 percent of expenditures for automobile transportation (more than 6 percent in even the lowest
income range) in contrast to a no doubt almost negligible proportion for all kinds of transportation in 1901, hidden in "sundri es" in
the report of that year's survey. The spending for automobiles
in 1950 was of course at the cost, percentagewise, of spending for
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


other items. Thus, aside from other ca uses, the automobile in
itself brought about, in th e half century, readily visible changes
in the expenditure patterns.

Patte1·ns for Workers' Pamilies and Other Groups. The data thus
far suma rized for 1950 relate to city workers' familie s having

4.- Consumpt fon e.r pnulit 11res of white workers' .families 1cilh at least one
child, in cities of all s·izes, by income class, J.')17-19
Income c lass




$ 1,800


$1 ,500






und er

und er
$ 1,800




4. 5
$ 1,070

4. 7
$!, 336

2, i:W

4. 3

$ 1, C.22

I , 594
5. I
$ 1, !)]4

5. 7
$2, 2Gl


$ 1, 0IG

$1 , 234

$], 4,52

$ 1, (if)G



$ 1,937
7 12





5 16



classes l ·11i1cr

?\u rnLcr of families ___ _
Average family siw ____________ _
A\·c r:igc mo 11cy income 1_____ _

12, 09G
4. 9
$ 1,505


5. 0





6. 4
$2, i77

'l'o tnl ex penditures for curren t con-

s umption

$ 1, :s,,2
[H O
18 7


Voo d _____ _

A lco liolic beverages .
'J'ohaC('Q ___ __
ll o11sin14 2 ______ _ ___ _ _

F 11PI , light, and refrigrrat ion _

j ,1

ll ouscliold opNation _


Fu rnish in gs and equipment _
Clo tiling _


Automobile .

\ (-j

Otl1l'r transportation


J\1cdica l care. __ _
Perso nal care .
ltccrt~ation .
Heading __
Ed1w,ttio11 __ _
.Misc,,nancous ____













t) l




















11111. 0
,10. 7

11111. 0











1110. 0

1110. 0
Jfi. 7

100, 0
36. 8


1. 2
11. 2







l 'erccnt uf f'Xl)e mlitu res for c un \ 11t

ro ns11111piion 1__

Food ______ _____ _
Akol1o lic hc\·crages ___
Tot1:1cco __ __
J lot1si11 g2 __



I. 3
13. 8

1.1. 2
i. I
2. 2
3. 5
13. \I

Ful'l , light, and refrigeratio n ____ _

I lousehold operation_
Furnishings and eq uipmen t_ _

2. 7
4. G

Clotliing ______ _____ _
A utorno bile- _____ __ _

17. 7

Other t rnnsportation_

]. 9

1\Iedieal care _

4. 7
2. 4

Perso nal carr __________________ _

Recreation __ ---- ---------- -----Reading __ __ __
Education ___ _
M-iscc 1laneo us _

·Hi. 3


I. 4

100. 0
44. 8
J. 4
14. 8

1. 1


41. 8

1. 2

J. 2

1. 2

1. 1

14 . 6
5. 9

14 . 0
5. 3

4. 8

4. 4

J. 4

2. 6
4. 4
16. 7

3. I
4. 8

3. 1

4. 2

14 . 3
5. 4
2. 8
4. 9
17. 7

12. 8

6. 3

2. 7
4. 5
21. 6

15. 3

4. 5

100. 0

1. 8
4. 5
1. 5


1. 9

I. 2
2. 0
4. 9

2. 0

2. 6





4. 7

18. 5

4. 8
19. 8

1. 9
I. 9

2. G
2. 2

2. 5

4. 7

4. 5

4. 4

3. 6

4. 2







2. 3


1 fn comc crnd expenditure dala ll an~ been re grouped to conform wit h t he 1950 classification.
'Exeludes 30 1 families whose rent included the cost of either heat or light or botl1.
?\om: Items may not add to totals hcca use of row1ding.
Sov 1,rn: Cost of Living in the United States, U.S. Bureau of Lahor Statistics Bulletin 357 (Washington,

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

two or more persons. That segment of the 1950 coverage is most
nearly comparable to the coverage of earlier surveys. The inclusion in the 1950 s urv ey of a sampling of all city consumers
mak es feasible certain desirable comparisons of the group of city
workers' families with certain other urban groups and with all
urban consumers.
Income after taxes, as well as expenditures and apparent savings,* natura lly averaged higher for all urban families (table 8)
than for the families of wage earn ers and clerical workers (table
6). The difference in average income, however, was only about
~:}00, a11d

i11 ex1w11dit 11n•s . only ab011t $:200.

The patt-rrn s ol'

spending of all urban families were not markedly different from
those of workers' families-evidence that urban worker families'
consumption habits resemble those of other urban family groups.
One other tabulation has distinctive interest: it presents data
for all wage-earner and clerical-worker consumers, both families
and individuals, by region and occupational group (table 9). Single
workers accounted for 1 in 9 of all city worker consumer units
surveyed. The inclusion of single consumers reduced average
income and expenditures somewhat below the average for urban
workers' families shown in table 6.
Single workers typically were yo unger or older than the family
man , and their income was slightly less than half of family income. And, because many of the single workers maintained their
own households, they spent nearly two-thirds as many dollars
for housing, fuel, and light. The single workers also apparently
often ate in restaurants, as food and beverages represented
about the same share of their budget as of families' expenditures.
Since only minor differences were noted in other expenditure
categories, it may be assumed that the single workers had either
more or somewhat better clothing, medical care, recreation, personal care, etc., since they were spending about half as many
dollars for these purposes, yet their expenditures covered purchases for 1 person, compared with an average of 3.4 in families.
The regional data reveal a substantial difference between average incomes in the South ($3,225) versus those in the North
($3,838) and in the West ($3,768). Average expenditures for
various categories of goods and services show approximately the
same regional relations. Expenditure patterns, however, were
remarkably similar among the 3 regions. In all cases, the differences were either so minute they could easily have resulted from
sampling error or were readily explicable. Moreover, income dif*Adequ:ttc trcn tment of sav in gs ns re fl ected by fa mil y expenditures s ur veys is beyo nd th e s cope
o f t his volum e. See th e s t ud y by Dor o th y S . Bra d y in A Stud y of Sa v in g in th e Uni ted Sta tes
by R . \V. r. old s mi th, Doroth y S . Ilra dy, a nd 1-Ior~ t Mcndershau st2n ( P r in ceto n Uni ve rs it y Press,
1956), V o lum e JI[ , P art II, pp. 139-276.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



5.-Consu mplion c:cpendilures of familie s of em plo yed workers i n cities of 50,000 ancl over, by income class, 1934 -36




Incom e class
$ 1,200
$ 1,.500
$ 1,800 I $2,100
$2, 400
classes and un dcr \nnd underland unde r and und erianct under a nd under and under a nd under a ncl undcrl and over



.f l ,500

$ 1,800


- - - - - - - - - - -- - - -- - - -- --- - - $2,400
- - - --- - - - 14,469
3. 6
$ 1,518

l\l iscel1 an eo 11s ____ ___ ________ _____ _____ ___ ____ ___ _____ __
P l•rcrnt of rxpc nditllr<'S for c urren t co nsumption ____ _______
Food and alco holic hcn•rages ______ ____ ____ ___ _____ ____

Housing. ___ ___ . ______ . _____ _____ __________ ... ..... ....


100. 0
34. 7
17. 7

100. 0
39. 4
20. 7
10. 0
3. 1
2. 0
7. 7
l. 4
2. 7

Fue l, li ght, and refr ige ration ____ _____ ______ _________ ___

'i . 4
4. 0
JO. 9
5. 9
2. 6
4. 0
5. 6



$ 1, 4G3

H ousehold OJ)l'rat lon ... _...... . __ . . ____ .... _____ ____ ...
Furnishin ~s nnd rq ui pmen t_ ___ __________ ______ ___ __ ___

M iscella neous . .......... ... ................ .

l lG
3. 1

2. 952
3. 4
$ 1,062

3,4 44
3. 5


$1, 081

$1, 332

28 1

100. 0
35. 4
18. 4
3. 7

100. 0
34. 3
17. 9







:3. 5
2. 0
4. 4
2. 8

100. 0
37. 9
9. 1
3. 6
3. 4
8. 9
2. 4
3. 0
4. 0
2. 0
4. 6

1 '"r axes deducted w ere poll, income, a nd personal propert y , which a ,,eragcd $5 per
famll y .

KoTE : Items may not add to totals because or roundin v.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


11 215
3. 2




JOO. 0
36. 8
19. 9
8. i
3. 5
3. 6
9. 4
3. 7
2. i
3. 9
2. U
5. 0

4. 1
10. 2
5. 5
2. 5
4. 0
2. 0
5. 4

3. G

$1 ,634


2, 185
3. 8
$1 ,928

4. 0

4. 3

4. 4
$2, 8G7

4. 8




13 1

11 5



2. 0
5 ..,

100. 0
33. I
16. 6
6. 8
4. 3
4. 3
11. 7
7. 6
2. 4
4. 3
2. 0
4. 8





7. 2

·1. 0
4. 4
11. 0
G. 3
2. 5

33. 0
15. G
6. 6
4. 4
4. 3
12. 4
7. 8

2. 5
3. 9
2. I
6. 2


100. 0
32. 8
15. 0
5. 7
4. 4
4. 2
13. 4
7. 0
2. 8
4. 2
2. 2
6. 6

ll 9

32. 2
14. 3
5. I
4. 6
3. 2
7. (j
3. 0
4. 2
2. 3

100. 0
33. 0
13. 3
4. 8
4. 6
3. 6
15. 2
6. g
3. 7
3. 7
2. 3

6. 8

7. •~



15. 0

Sov BCE: Mone y Disb urscnwnts of , v agc E arnrrs a nd Clerical ,vorkc rs, 1934-36,
Summa ry \' olume, U .8 . Bureau or Lab or Statistics Bulletin 638 (W as hington, 1941) ,
pp. 12, 22.

ferentials among workers have narrowed appreciably since earlier
studies, as indicated previously.
The relationships of average incomes and expenditures among
the broad occupational groups of wage and clerical workersclerical and sales workers and, among wage earners, the skilled,
the semiskilled, and the unskilled*-appear consistent with conclusions derived from other sources. So also the expenditure
patterns seem to reveal no surprises. The most apparent differences were that the white-col1ar workers had smaller families
but uniformly spent more of their income on hou si ng and clothing
than skilled workers, although the incomes of the two groups were
not far apart. Skilled workers, on the other hand, spent relatively
more than clerical workers on food, transportation, and tobacco.
And both groups were better off than the semiskilled and unskil1ed

Redefining "Basic Necessities"
The traditional classification of basic necessities has come to
mean merely that even the simplest manner of living requires a
modicum of food, clothing, and shelter. Early consumption studies
abroad, primarily among the poor in European countries, elaborated what must have been more or less apparent, namely, that
ordinary workers had little, often nothing, left for spending beyond the meeting of rather primitive requirem ents for food and
clothing and shelter. Nor was it widely assumed in other circles
that \\·orkers should aspire to more. Indeed, a widely held docti·ine
of "the utility of poverty" gave rise to countless frank expressions
of views, even among liberty-loving Englishmen, that a "state
bordering on want" must prevail among the "lower orders" if they
were to be kept at work. 3
Even in 19th century America, if the sat isfyi ng of food needs
r equired only 50 instead of 75 pc1·cent of expend itUl'es, that was
a significant indicator of well-being. Today, in contrast, we cannot say with assurance that the use of 40 percent for food as
compared with 30 percent proves the existence of a real difference
in degree of well-being, although there is a strong presumption
that it does so. The uncertainty arises from the fact that workers' food expenditures nowadays are divided between foods as
luxuries and foods as necessities. As the income of the individual
worker (class of workers) rises above what is needed for maintenance of his current way of living, he has three choices regarding
food (or other expenditure categories ). He can maintain hi s past
*Occupation s were c1assifi ed in accordance w ith the U. S . Bureau of the Cen sus occu pation al
cla ss ifi catio n sys te m.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis




6.-Conswnption ex penditures of wage-earner ancl clerical-worker famili es in cities of B, 500 and over, by income class , 1950



c l aSS('S


Income rlass

L" ndl'r J~1,000 and $2,000 and $3,000 and 1~4, 000 and [$5,000 a nd ,fi,000 a nd $i ,500 and ! $10,000
$ 1,0UO
unrl er
und er
und er
un der I a nd o, er
$4, 000
$i, 500



- - - - --- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -- - - - - - - - - - -- :'\'um hrr of fa milies _____ ____ ____

;_ oo,

A,·cragp fami ly s ize _____ _____ ____ __ ___ __ __ __
A , ·crage m oney income afte r pcr:-011a ! t<ixes 1__ ___

T ota l expendit ures for cun·ent con~1m1pt ion

Food ___________ ________ ____

Alcoh olic !)L> \'('r:1!.U"L --- ---- -- . . .

Furl, li !:! ht. ,1 nd refrigeration ____
Ifousr hold opffntion_
Fu rnbhin;?"s a nd c ~p1ipmt•11L
C'loth ing _ . ______ ____ _____________



---- --------------- ----

·----- -
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


$1, 92-1

$!. 795

I. 13U

$ 1. 408
I . 324
l i4
33 1







13 1


-1.\ 3

I 17









. - I
____ :::::_: __::: : I

l , 4,o3
3. 5
$4. 454


P crrcnt of cx prnditures for current con:-11111 pt ion _ ____ . __. _. ___
Food _____ __ ______ ___ - --- ---··-· ··---- . - -- . - -- . - -- . - . -

-- ------- ---

2, 180
3. 4
$3, 4~7


___ ::::::- ______-- ----·.I_I


I , 423
3. I
$2, 51>1


l 'crsonal care ______ __ ____________ . ____ ____________________ ___ __
----- ---------------------- ------ -- ---------He:uli n~---- ___ ____ _______ _______ _______
----- ------ ------Ed11ra1 ion ___________
---- -------::\ f isre llaneous _____ _ _______ __________

Tob:.1cc·o __ ___ ------- - --- --- -H ou~ing __ _____ ____ _______ __ _
Fu el. lig ht, and refrigera1ion ___ __
l Iou~chol d operat ion ___ __ ___ . ___
J·'u rnishin g-:- and r·1uipm ent
Clot hi11 t! - _________ _____ ____ . _
Automo bile . _. __ ____________ ____ .

2. 9
$ 1,629

i \J


_,., lco holir hr\·ernge,;:_ . __ _____ ___

2. :J
$65 1

1, 20:)

- --------

--------· ----


$:J. ~2;j

s:1 H'..!.1



3. 4

4. 2
3. g
i. I
I I. 5
12. I

8 fj

11 2
!(Kl. 0
32. 0

JG. 8
7. 2
4. fl
5. I
7. i
6. 4


I 5R




22 1




100. 0
33. 8
I. 5
2. 4
12. 0
5. 0
3. 9
6. g
10. 2
8. 8

100. 0
31. g
I. 6
10. 9
4. 4
3 8

fi. l



100. 0
35. 8
I. 3
2. G
12. 9
5. 8
3. i
10. 2
(i . 8

50 1


6 8
111. 8
11 .8

21 9



100. 0
30. 0
I. 9
2. 0
JO. 3
3. 9
3. 8
7. 5
11. 5
12. 7

3. i
$:), 43-l

$5. 262
I, 514
5 1I
2 13
11 8

100. 0
28. 8

I. g
1. 8
9. 7
3 .,4. 0
7. 4
12. 3
14. 0

3. 9

4. 2
$8, 3V4

4. 5
$ 13,292

$6, ! Si
I. 691

$7, ! GI
I , l)92
l :i8



JOO. 0
27. 3
2. 2
9. 5
3. 4
4. 0
7. 5
13. 3
14. 4


$ 10,342
8 14
J, 002
2 12





100. 0
27. 8
1. 2
1. 8
8. :i
3. 2
4. 2

JOO. 0


l , 02r.
I , 052

G. I

14 . 3
14 . i

25. 6
2. 8
1. 2

9. 4
2. 8
7. 9
7. 8
15. 4
9. 7

Other transportation ________________ _._
~Iedical care . __ _
P ersonal care. _

Recreation ___
Reading _____ Education ____
Miscellaneous _


1. 5 '

I. 9

A. I

6. 7

5. 3

2. 3
4. 5

2. 1
2. 0
4. 8

2. 7



I 2

1 Taxes deducted were F ederal, State, and local income tax, poll tax, and personal
property tax.
NOTE: Items may not add to totals because or rounding.


Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

2. 4
I. 3

I. 9
5. 4
2. 5
3. 3
1. 2

]. f,


5. 4
2. 4
4. 3
J 0

5. 0
2. 2


4. 7
2. 2
4. 9
I. 3

4. 8
2. 1
5. 2
1. 4

2. 2
4. 7
2. 2
5. 5
I 2

2. 0
4. 0
2. 0
5. 8

2. 0

~OURCE: Study of Consumer Expenditures, Incomes and Savi ngs: Sta ti sti cal Tabl es,

Urban U. S.- 1950 (Uni versity or Pen nsylvania, 195r>), \ "olu mes I , II, III, IX , X,
1ablc 16 in each ,·olumc .

level of food consumption and spend more for other categories;
he can devote a higher proportion of income to food, buying greater
quantities or better qualities or eating in restaurants instead of at
home; or he can use part of the additional income for food and
part of it for other items or for savings. In fact, there have been
substantial increases in consumption of items of food formerly
regarded universally as "luxuries."*
Actually, of course, as workers have obtained added buying
power they have usually decided to raise their food consumption
level in some degree, to improve their housing facilities somewhat,
to add a bit to their savings, and in other ways to make a complex
series of adjustments. This is especially true in periods of rapidly
rising real income. It is the very complexity of such choices and
resultants in terms of consumption that make periodic expenditure
surveys necessary for keeping up with changes in patterns of
The chapters on housing, housekeeping, and food which follow
leave no doubt that the food and shelter procured for successively
smaller shares of the dollar provided steadily increasing consumer
values and, presumably, satisfactions. Thus, our century has
created the phenomenon of more than half of the workers attaining homeownership. Both homeowners and tenants commonly
have comforts and facilities unknown or rarely available to their
counterparts in 1901. So, too, the 31 cents of each dollar devoted
to food in 1950 provided much more than the 43 cents per dollar
in 1901. If the sole improvement had been the better balanced
diet, the gain would be noteworthy. Similar conclusions are valid
for clothing, the other group of traditional basic necessities. Although allocating a somewhat smaller part of their expenditures
to clothing than in 1901, present-day workers and their families
wear apparel far more smartly styled and more efficiently functional. (See chapter VI.) Their clothing, generally conforming
in off-the-job uses to prevailing fashions, is evidence of the dimming of class distinctions.

Rol e of "Sundries"
The transformation of the three traditional categories of "basic
necessities" into composites of primary essentials, secondary
needs, conveniences, and luxuries impairs their significance, as
envisaged by consumption economists of earlier generations, as
*This ana lys is assumes a s ubsta n t iall y sta ble relation s hip nmon~ the pl'ices of th e main items
in the f::,mi ly budget. Actuall y, the perce ntages of family e xpenditures allocated to the various
g roups arc at t im es s ign ificantly influ enced by di vergent price tre nds but this does not in va lidate
the a nal ys is o f bas ic changes.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

bases for appra1smg advances in well-being beyond subsistence
levels. Nevertheless, the expenditures for food and clothing and
shelter, although they rise with additions to buying power, remain
relatively stable because of the large "hard core" elements
of necessary spending for those categories. In comparison with
various items for which expenditures are much more elastic in
response to changes in buying power, food and clothing and shelter
thus retain much significance as a point of departure for appraising
advances in well-being.
The comparatively elastic items were formerly often classified
as "sundries." The 1875 survey in Massachusetts thus described
groups of items designated in more recent surveys as m edical
care, transportation, housefurnishings, household operation, and
leisure activities.

7. -A verage consumption e.r penditures of .families of city
workers of two or more persons, selected periods

1rng e

and clerical

[Tn doll ars of 1950 purchasing po11-er ']

1888- 91

survey _


1917- 19

1934- 36

sur vey





- - - - - - - - - - -Number of fami lies covered .... _
Average family size (persons) __ _.

2, sr,2
3. 9

4. 9

14 , 469


$2, G61

$-1, 299


4, 076
1, 335
2 13

In 1950 dollars

A11eraoe money receipts
Mon ey income before person al taxes _.
M oney income after personal taxes. ___
Other receipts- ----------·-·
'fotal receipts (after taxes) ___ _.. - ..

11 , 156
4. 0

---------- --------- - ---------$1,793

$1,9 14

$2. 408

------- -- - - -------- - ----------------- - - - -- -------

Average outla ys

Current ou tlays for goods an d services (t otal) __
Food and drin k __ ___ ___ ___ ..
Clothing ___- --------·
Shelter (current expense) _______ -·_
Fuel, light, refrigeration and water . .. . . .
J-Iousefnm!shln gs and eqnlpmenL . .. .
H onsehol d opcratlon __·· ···-··
Automobile purchase and operat ion ___ _
Other transportation_ .. _._
M ed ical care------ ··-··
P ersonal care ·--·····--·
R ecreation __ __
R eadin g__ .
Edncatlon ._ ... .
Tohacco .. ....... .
Miscellaneous goods and sen· ices __ .

1, G71


2, 163


11 9



, The cost of Jiv ing Index developed by Paul Douglas (sec American Econom ic R eview, Supplement,
M arch 1926, p. 22) \\'US used to convert the 1888- 91 and 190 1 expenditures into 1050 dollars. The Consumer
Price Index of t he Bureau of Labor Stat istics was used for the surveys of 191i - 19, J934- 3G, aud 1950.
Sou nrn: For 188&--9 1, 1901, and 1917-19, see tables 2, 3, and 4, respectively; 1934- 36 and 1950 data arc from
l'aith M . Williams, Standard s and Levels of Livin g of City• Worker Fami lies (in M onth ly Labor R ev iew,
September 1956, p. 101 8).
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis




8.-Consumption ex penditures of all families i n cities of 2,500 and over, by incom e class, 1950





$ 1,000

$ 1.IXIO



w1ct r ,



N umber of fa 111i lles _____ ______ ___ ____ ___ ___ ___ _
Averngefamilysizc __ ____ ____ _____ _____ ______ ________ ___ ___ _____
Average mone y income a fter person a l taxes t ___
Totalcxpencli iuresforcurren tco n sumpt ion ____ ____


_____ ____ _

IO. 79 1


_____ _____

______ _

P ercent of expen ditures for current consum ption _____


und r 1

,m d







an d


:l. 7


4. 0


$:l, 492 I

$-!, 4fi4

$.\ 419

$6. fi38

$8, -!32

$ 1,\ 932

~3. o l3 ,
1, 135

$-! .4W ·
I , 313

J, 498

l. 6-!8

$7.l f>O

$ 10. 808
2. ·12:l




28 1
84 1
3 17
,\ 2 1
88 1I

2-! 2

I , l 4u
l. 172







21 5

9 I

11 l


2-! 2


2:i l

100. 0
32. r,
1. 3

100. 0
:1ri. 9
I. I I
2. 2

100. 0
33. 5 I
J. :J
2. 1

JOO. 0
:JI. ·1
1. 5
2. o

100. 0
29. 2
1. 7
1. 9

100. 0
28. 2
J. 8
1. 7

100. 0
27. 2
J. 8
1. r,

100. 0
2!i. 8
2. 0
1. 4

I~ 9

1:J ~

1: ~

1 1. ~



G. ,

V. -

4. v

4. 0

J. ,

7. 0

5. G

-! . 2
,=i . 4

-!. I
6. 8

(i_ 7

7. ,)

I. 3

;3_ ,'. )
-!. G
7. 2

9. 8


11. f,
1. 7

7. 1


1. 8

J l. 7
l. 6

12. 8








1. 8

$2. R09



39 ·









$ 1 892


$2. 549

und n


$1. 8A3

4. -
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis






$-! , 11 9
I, 221

I OU. 0
29. 7
J. G
1. s

______ __ ___ _____ I



$1, 55fi


Othertran sporta tion ___ ___ ________ _______ ____ __

982 1~





_____ __ __



$4. 22-1


Read ing_ __ ________ __________
Educat10n ______
l\I iscellaneo us ___ _____ _____ ____

2. 4






I ~~



.\. -!
G. 4

8. 4

13.6 1
J:l. o

10. 8
1. 8


12. 8 1
13. !l





Education ______ _
M iscella nco us.



2. 2 I

.9 I

4 5




:i. 2

Recreation ____ __

-- - 1

NOTE: Items may not ad d to to tals because of rounding.


Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


2. 0 :
2. I





Taxes ded ucted were Federal, State, and local income tax, poll tax, and personal

property tax.



,1. V

5. 5

2. 4

2. 4

5. (j
2. :J

2. 4


4. 3





.1. 0 i
2. 1 !
5. 2








1. 5

I. I

1. 2

I. 4


.\ I
2. 2



4. 9

2. 2

4. 8


4. 2

2. J


5. I
1. 3

5. 5

1. 5
2. 9

SO CR CE: D eriYed from Study of Consumer E xpenditures, In co mes a nd Sa vi ngs:
Statistical T a bles, Crban U. S.-1950 crnin•rsi ty of Pennsy lvania , 195i) , Volu me
XVII I, table 2.

Medical care reached 4.7 percent of total expenditures in 1917- 19
and remained near 5 percent in subsequent surveys. The level of
medical care has probably risen much more, as is pointed out in
the chapter on that subject, than the expenditure surveys reveal.
The quality of care has risen perhaps more than the quantity. On
the other hand, averages of medical care expenditures are peculiarly inadequate: families afflicted by catastrophic illness contribute much more than their share to the average and yet may
fail to command adequate medical care.
In the expenditure surveys, leisure activities commonly comprise recreation, education, and reading. By 1950, those expenditures had reached 5.8 percent for all wage-earner and clericalworker families. More than three-fourths of those expenditures
were classified as recreation, 15 percent as reading, and less than
10 percent as education. In the last category, of course, the
costs are mainly met through taxation. Many leisure activities
require no money disbursement; others cannot be isolated from
average expenditures for other consumption groups. Automobile
transportation costs, for example, include not only the expense
of driving to and from work but also of a motor vacation, trips
to movies and ball games, and the "Sunday afternoon drive."
The metamorphosis in transportation most nearly deserves to
be termed revolutionary. (See chapter VIII.) As recently as
1917- 19, wage earners and clerical workers were allocating only
3.1 percent of their spending to transportation; in less than 20
years the proportion had almost trebled; it rose, according to the
1934- 36 survey, to 8.5 percent. By midcentury it had become one
of the largest items in the worker's family budget, accounting for
nearly 14 percent of all spending. Half a century ago, none but
the wealthiest families commanded their own private nonlocal
transportation facilities. There is no more remarkable evidence
of rising levels of living than the fact that today's worker and his
wife and often their son or daughter commonly take car ownership for granted.
The increasing proportion of expenditures that workers have
been able to devote to secondary needs, conveniences, and luxuries
is only a pale reflection of the actual advance. A 5 percent allocation of a worker's buying power to recreation, for example, in
1888, or even in 1934, represented only a fraction of 5 percent of
the worker's buying power in recent years. Even more significant is the widening of the range of choice-the enlarging of the
area of freedom-with the widening margin of power to select
the varied goods and services that lie beyond the basic necessities
and the secondary needs.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

The six major surveys of the incomes and expenditures of city
workers' families, and especially the four in the first half of the
present century, suffice for many significant conclusions, notably
as to the remarkable advances in material well-being. Additional
sources of information, however, call for summary evaluation here
as data collateral to our subject. (For further description and
evaluation, see chapter X.) Those sources are the estimates of
total personal consumption expenditure compiled by the Department of Commerce and the standard budgets from various sources,
which deal primarily with specified standards rather than actual
levels of living.
The four chief family expenditure surveys, it will be recalled,
covered 1901, 1917- 19, 1934-36, and 1950. Those surveys, made
at considerable intervals, cannot reflect the intervening economic
ups and downs-the boom years of the twenties, the sharp downturn of the early thirties, the recovery trend and temporary setback of 1937- 38, the feverish wartime activity with restricted
consumption, the inflationary postwar spending, and the recession
of 1948- 49.
As a reflection of those changes, the Commerce personal consumption expenditure series provides a useful supplement. Per
capita expenditures for food, for example, fell from $145 in 1929
to $78 in 1933 (table 26, p. 226), a decline of not far from half;
when the drop in retail food prices is considered, the decline was
still about 15 percent. *
These expenditur e data are chiefly significant, for our present
purpose, as a substantial confirmation of rising levels of living
over the period covered and of workers' family spending as more
closely approximating the spending by other groups as the century advanced.
The standard budgets (table 28, p. 236), broadly speaking, have
represented standards desirable in the view of their authors or
objectively determined standards of adequacy. Both approaches
have usually resulted in standards somewhat above levels of
living actually attained by sizable economic groups. The remarkable advances in standards thus formulated comprise highly significant evidences of the advances actually made as families surpassed one standard after another.
The earlier budgets defined adequacy for self-sustaining families at the minimum which would enable them to subsist without
resort to charity. Later, the focus turned to whether such families were receiving a " living wage" decidedly above the subsistence
•rt is not un likely that depress ion resort to home gardening, cannin g and preservin g, an d
subs isten ce f arming held the decline in actual f ood consumption to less than 15 percen t.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis





0.- Consu mption expend itures of wage-earner and clerical-worker famil ies and single consumers in cities of 2,500 and over, by region
and occupational group, 1950


u. s.





\V age earn ers




workers Skilled

t: nSemiskilled skilled



\V age earners

wor kers Skilled

Semi -

sk illed



\V agc earners

workers Skilled


- - - - - - - - - - - - - -- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -- - - Number or consumer uni ts __ _____ __ __ 7.895
Average fam ily size ____ _____ __ ____ _._.
3. I
Average money Income after personal
taxes 1__ __ _ _ __ _____ ___ ____ _ __ _ _ ____ _ $3, 7B


3, fi75
3. 2

2. 9

3. 4

3. 4

2. 8

3. 2

2. 9

3. 4

3. 4

53 1
3. 2

2. 335
3. 0

2. 8

3. 3

3. 2


$4, 100


$.1, 789

$3,02 1

$.3, 225



$3, 140


$3, 768

$4, 107

$4, 209

$3, 750

$3, 695

$3, 8 16

1,04 1

I , 066

8 16














1, 195


$3, 789

I , 146

15 1

$4, 279
1, 377

$3, 757

1, 271

$4 , 028
1, 286


I , 206

$4, 033
I , 182

$4, 207

$3, 748
I , 205









2 16




100. 0
32. 6
2. 0
4. I
4. 0
6. 9

100. 0
33. 3
4. 3
3. 9
"6. ,7

100. 0
32. 0
1. 8
3. 9
4. 9

32. 2
JO. 5
4. 2
3. 6

100. 0
34. 0
2. I
JO. 4
4. 3
3. 4
i . -I

100. 0
35. 9
2. 3
11. 5
4. 8

2. 2

30. 2
1. 8
9. 9
3. 4
3. 7

100 0
32. 2
2. I
10. 4


3 1. 2
10. 9
3. 4
4. 0

100. 0
29. 3

4. 0

29. 6
I. 9
12. 2
3. 6
5. 7
f,, 4

5 16

'J'otal e xpenditures for current con surnption ___ ___ __ __ ___ ___ _

---- --

Food and b<-vcra.gcs ___ ____ _____ __

Tobacco ____ __ __ __ __ __ ---- -- - -- -Housing ___ ____ __ ____ ______ _____ . _
F uel, !lght, and refrigeration ___ ___
Household operation ____ ____ __ __ _
l' urnishlngs and equipment. _____
Clothing __ . _____ __ . ______ ... .. ___
Trans portatio n .. ___ __ ___ __ ___ . __

Medica l care--- · · ·······-· · · ·· · · ··

Personal care ___ __ ___________ ___ __







! , In





Recreat io n, reading , and educ:.\ -

tion ___ _____ __ ______ ____ __ ______

Misoelhneous . . - -- _. __ . _. _____ _.. .
P ercent or expend itures for curren t
consumption .. _____ ___ ...... . ... . . .
Food and beverages __ ______ ______
Tobacco ______. -- -- -._._._ .. _.... __
Hous inir . . _... __ -- - --- - --- -- -- -- -Fuel, light , and refrigeration ____ __
Household operation __ __ __ _______
F urnishings and equipment __ ___ _
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



5. p

4. 4
i. l



21 3


9 ,j



30. 9
2. 2

100. 0
34 . 5
2 2
9. 7
4. 4
4. ()

~5. 5
2. 4
10. 1
5. 5

JO. 3
4. 1
4. 0

-7. .2

-7. 4.


•. 0


l. 5
12. 0
3. 3

5. 0
7. 6"



7. 7




6. 2

3. 6

,7. 0

Clothin~ - ___ ____ ___ ____
Trans portation ._

l'vlcdical care ___ __
Personal care ______

-------- 1

n:~i:ti~'.~•- ' ~'.'~'.i~~·- -~~~- _e_~


lll iscellaneo us ______ ______________

11. 5
13. 6
5. 0
2. 3

12. 6
5. 0
2. 3

5. 8
I. 2

I. 2


12. 2
11. 3
5. 0
2. 4

11. 5 '
14. 7
5. 0
2. 2

11. 6
12. 6
5. 1
2. 3

6. 1
I. I

6. 2

6. 0


4. 3
2. 8

10. 9
16. 0
5. 3
2. 2

12. 0
14. I
5. 5
2. 3

10. 4
18. 3
5. 3
2. 2

IO. i
16. 7
5. I
2. 2

10. 4
13. 4
5. 5
2. 3

I. 5

5. 7

I. 3

5. 9
I. 2

5. 5

6. 3
I. 5

II. 6
12. 4
4. 7
2. 6

12. 5

2. 6

I I. 4
16. 1
4. 8
2. 3

5. 6

5. 5
I. 2

5. 3

11. 6
10. 6
4. 6
2. 4

12. 0
13. 2
4. i
2. 5

12. 6
13. 0

5. 2
1. 3

I. 4

5. 2

9. 9

Taxes deducted were Federal, State, and local income tax, poll tax, and personal
property tax.
XOTE : ll ems may not add to totals because of rounding.


Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

SOURCE : Derived from Stud y of Consumer Expenditures, Incomes and Savings:
Statistical Tables, Urban U . S.-1950 (University of Pennsylvania, 1956), Volumes
I and II, table 8.

level. Later still, the budgets presented standards which satisfied current "social" concepts. The progression is obscured to
some extent by the special requirements of two world wars and
a major depression.
The rapidly advancing concept in the standard budgets of what
constituted "adequacy" mirrored, in some respects, the progress
of our society somewhat more significantly than did the surveys
of actual conditions. The advancing concept reflected changes
in basic attitudes and therefore, at length, registered the feasibility of translating the advancing concept into reality.
1 W. Duane Evan s, in Employment and Wag es in the United States by
W . S. Woytinsky and Ass ociates (Ne w York, Twentieth Ce ntury Fund,
1953 ), p. 81 (citing Work Time Required to Buy Food , by Ir ving B . Kravis,
in Monthly Labor R eview, N ovembcr 1949).
2 Op. cit., p. 510.
Many similar v ie ws are cited by E . S. Furness in Th e Po~ition of the
Laborer in a Sys tem of Nationalism (Boston, H oughton Miffiin, 1920) ,
pp. 118ff.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


From the Slums to Suburbia
. . . the first thing a man does when he obtains a
considerable increase of income and sets about
spending it, generally is to look for a better house.
- N. G. Pierson.

Among the significant achievements of the United States
economy in the 20th century are the improvements in housing
and the growth in homeownership. For wage earners, as well
as other members of our society, the home has come to embody
a multitude of new goods and services which lighten the burden
of housekeeping, make it better suited as a center of family life,
and symbolize economic and cultural advantages available in the
United States today.
The story of workers' housing since 1900 is compounded of
growth in purchasing power, the development of a mass-production housing industry and low-cost amortized financing, and
changing social attitudes. Perhaps the key to this changing
pattern is the fact that the approach to the housing problem is
no longer primarily that of "workers' housing," as in early years
of th e century. Thus, United States delegates at conferences of
the International Labor Organization on workers' hou ing talk
of all housing.
This chapter traces the major changes in housing since the
turn of the century, and stresses the current factors which suggest continued improvements in housing, not only for wage
earn er s but for all Americans .
In every country at some period in its history, the worker's
need for shelter has been related to the requirements of his
occupation or the location of his job. Before the industrial revolution, the home was often also the place of employment. With
the development of the factory system, industrial workers sought
housing near t h e factory and the factory town grew up.
Early industrial dev elopment in America followed the same
course. The typical pattern of crowded urban housing had been
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


established before the end of the 19th century. Descriptions of
housing conditions of the time revealed th e effects of rapid and
planless city growth.
Causes of Congestion and Poor Housing
The rapid growth of industry and population in the United
States in the 1800's led to extreme congestion in some areas,
notably in New York City. In 1894, th ere were 143 persons per
acre on the island of Manhattan, for example, as compared with
125 in the city of Paris; in t he 10th ward of New York City, the
density was 626 per acre. Prague, one of the most crowded of
European cities, had 485 persons per acre. Overcrowding, poor
housing, and unsanitary conditions were by no m eans confined
to New York City; slums housed an estimated 10 percent of all
persons living in the 16 United States cities with populations of
200,000 or more. Even in the comparatively small mill towns of
New England and the South and in mining villages and logging
camps, workers and their families often lived under conditions
little to be preferred to those of the more congested parts of
Manhattan Island.
There were several general causes, economic, social, technological, for th e crowded, unsanitar y, and uncomfortable housing in
most of the factory areas at t he turn of the century. Low wages
provided income for little more than subsistence for workers'
families. By today's standards, the wage earner had to spend
a disproportionately large share of his income for food, and consequently had insufficient funds for other purposes, s uch as good
housing. Other factors t ended to force him into cr owded quarters near his job. One of th ese was the long workday. In 1900,
6 days of 9 or 10 hours each were still considered a normal working
week in the United States. After spending so much time at his job,
the workman could not face the prospect of a long ride home.
Marcus T. Reynolds, writing in 1893, observed:
A cottage in the suburbs is certainly more attractive . ... U nfortunately the peculiar location of m a ny of our cities prohibits thi s
solution of the problem . . . . The hour lost in goi ng and comin g to
his work more than coun terbalances t he advantages gai ned by
s uburban resi dence, in t he mind of the average workman. At whatever cost of comfort and health, an d even of money, the wo rkm an
will live near his work, a nd un less the factories are mov ed into the
suburbs, he will continue to r eside in the most crowd ed portion of
our cities. 1

Not only time but also transportation problems prevented the
workers from spreading out into the suburban ar eas. Transpor58
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

CITY DWELLING-Today's apartment blocks, with their lawns, their allround exposure to daylight, and their obvious dwelling purpose, are a g reat
improvement on the crowded streets and tenement dwellings of earlier days,
cheek by jowl with industrial and commercial enterprises.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


tation was a factor also in limiting decentralization of industry.
Not until the development of the motortruck and a paved highway
system was it possible to cut the ties between the factory and
the railroad and move both the plant and the workers' homes
out of the central city.
In other respects, also, the easing of city crowding waited for
technological advances. Early in the century, the height of
apartment houses was limited by the materials used in the structural framework and the tenants' stair-climbing ability-6 or 7
stories was the upper limit. Not until the initiation of public
low-cost housing programs and their acceleration in the 1930's did
elevator apartments become available in any quantity for lowand middle-income families. In recent years, the evils of overcrowding have been greatly alleviated in many high-density areas
by replacing the 5- or 6-story tenements with 20- and even 25story elevator-type structures, set in large areas of open space.
Long before the turn of the century, land had become scarce
in the big cities and the New England factory towns. As the
working population increased, additional buildings were crowded
onto lots formerly considered no more than adequate for a singlefamily house. In a study of Chicago slum conditions in 1900,
23 percent of the 3,117 structures surveyed were found to be
iocated on the rear of lots occupied by other structures. The
added buildings were usually "walk-up" apartment houses, containing as many living units as could be crowded into 5 or 6 stories.
Except in the large cities and some of the mill towns, workers'
homes were usually single-family structures, whether owned or
rented. In what eventually became densely crowded slum areas
of the cities, much of the housing was provided by subdividing
old fami ly residences and converting them into apartments and
lodging houses. Many families, already badly overcrowded in
small makeshift apartments, supplemented their meager incomes
by taking in lodgers. In the mill towns of New England and
later in the South, the factory owners commonly found it necessary to provide housing for their workers. This led to the construction of company-owned housing, rented by the employees.
Immigration, of course, created many urban problems in the
early years of the century. The incoming jobseeker , mostly
unskilled and unable to speak English, tended to cluster together.
With limited resources and earning power, thrown into a strange
social environment, the newcomers sought housing near members
of their own ethnic group. These foreign communities crowded
in upon already overcrowded slum areas. An 1894 study by the
U. S. Commissioner of Labor showed the following distribution
of foreign-born population in four large cities:
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Percent of forrig o-born
[n city as a
B altimore ___ _
Chicago _____ _

Ne w York _______


__ ___



Philadelphia ___ - _ __ - - ---- - - ____ - -- - --- --- ---- _ -- _________ - -- -- ----- ______ _

In slum s






Special circumstances aggravated the housing problems of New
York City. In the decade of the nineties its population grew
by nearly a million; its geographical limits were putting extreme
pressure on space available; and, as the major port of entry,
it was becoming a more and more constricted bottleneck for
immigrants coming increasingly from overcrowded European
countries of low living standards and levels.

The first census report on homeownership (1890) showed that
nearly 37 percent of the families in the United States owned
their homes. The data did not relate homeownership to occupation or income, but the geographical variations suggest that
the incidence of owner-occupancy among factory workers was
very low. In fact, a 1901 survey of income and expenditures by
the Commissioner of Labor found that, among a sample of 25,440
worker families in "principal industrial centers," only 19 percent
owned their homes . Ownership was especially low in the New
England and Middle Atlantic regions and in Georgia and Louisiana.
Limited income was the chief, but by no means the only,
deterrent to homeownership. Lack of job security was prevalent;
the 1901 survey showed that nearly half of the heads of families
were idle at some time during the year-9 weeks, on the average.
The difficulty of borrowing money and the high cost of financing
presented an almost insuperable obstacle to most workers. The
long-term amortized mortgage loan was rarely used. The maximum loan offered was typically about half of the appraised value,
on a 1- to 5-year note, payable in full at maturity, and bearing
interest at from 6 to over 10 percent. Renewal of the note
involved heavy refinancing charges. The result was that only
the relatively well-off could own their homes.
That limited incom e also prevented many renters from meeting
their housing standards is apparent from an examination of the
importance of rents in the expenditures of families at different
income levels. The 1901 survey showed that rent expenditures,
as a percent of total spending, did not decline significantly as
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


family income rose-they represented 16.6 percent among families with incomes of $1,100- $1,200, compared with 18.7 percent
among the $300- $400 group. (See table 3.) Thus, even the
higher income families apparently had not satisfied their housing
wants to an extent that permitted them to devote a substantially
larger share of their expenditures to other less necessary items.
This inference is borne out by the Eighth Special Report
(1895) of the Commissioner of Labor, which stated: "Investigation shows indubitably that the percentage of earnings of heads
of tenant families which is absorbed in payment of rent in all
large cities is far too high." 2 In that report also, the tenements
built after 1880 were described as representing "wonderful progress," but they lacked most of the basic facilities available to
most of the urban workers even during the depression of the

Condition of the Workers' Houses
Not only did financial considerations prevent most urban wage
earners from obtaining better homes, but also much of the
workers' housing was badly designed and built and poorly maintained. It provided few of the comforts which we take for
granted today.
In New York , the Tenement House Act of 1879 required outside windows for all rooms in newly constructed residential buildings. Each floor of these "dumb-bell" tenements typically contained 4 apartments with 2 centrally located bathroom faci lities.
(See chart 3, p. 63.) An especially noxious feature of these
structures was the air shaft, formed by the space between a ny
2 adjoining buildings, which widened from as little as 6 inches
or a foot at the front and back to perhaps 5 feet in the center.
This was the device used to satisfy the legal requirement of outside windows. These shafts were entirely enclosed and extended
from top to bottom of the building. Small windows opening on
the shaft provided the only direct light and air for most of the
rooms in the apartment. Often the bottom of the shaft became
covered with a nauseating collection of garbage and debris.
Rather than light and air, as the law had envisaged, the shaft
provided foul odors and discordant sounds and, like a chimney,
a ready means of spreading fire throughout the structure.
Early studies of public health problems called attention to the
hazards of overcrowding, not only to the inhabitants of the slums
but also to the entire community. The Seventh Special Report
of the Commissioner of Labor revealed that in 1893 the slum
dwellings of New York housed an average of 1.9 persons per
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Chart 3










o '


I '

Ll ~l ~G




9 6 K tO









H X 14

11 )( 14

- - - - -- ------50' - - - - - - - - - - - ~
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



Source: T he Tenement Ho u se Problem
New York, T he Macmi llan Co.,
(1900- 1903) Vol. 1, p. 101.


'room. The average was 1.5 in Philadelphia, 1.4 in Chicago, and
1.2 in Baltimore. And the floor space in a typical old-law tenement bedroom often measured no more than 6 feet by 7 feet!
The same r eport indicates the following situation with respect
to sanitary facilities:
Prrcc11tagc of famili es hav in g nccrss to-


Ba th room

W aterclose t

pri vy only

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ---1-----1-- ---1-- - Dalt imore
X f' w 'i~ork __ _
Philad,•lpl1i a






E ach bathroom in the New York slums was used by an average
of 8.1 persons ; each watercloset or privy, by 10.5. The averages
for Philadelphia were 7.4 and 6.9, r espectively.
While most of the studies of the time were devoted to crowding in cities, similar conditions probably existed in many of the
mill villages, both North and South. Crowded conditions within
the houses were, h owever, alleviated by the fact that there was
some freedom of movement outside them.
Regional variations in worker h ousing resulted naturally from
differences in climate, space, and rate of city growth. Most of
the early southern cotton mills were located in small towns or
even rural areas. The worker s' houses generally were 4-room
detach ed buildings of light frame construction, with no provision
in the structure for water, lighting, or sanitary facilities. Two
of the rooms might have fireplaces, and a cookstove was provided
for the kitchen, but the fourth room was unheated. This type
of factor y housing was still common in the South in 1900, and
in fact, some of it exists today.
The rigorous climate of the North required more substantial
construction than was characteristic of the southern mill towns,
although the structures were equally devoid of such amenities
as plumbing and central h eating. Most of the structures contained more than one dwelling unit. Surveys in 1908 indicated
that three-fourths of the cotton mill families in Maine, New
Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island lived in multifamily structures.
The heating arrangements in workers' housing wer e, in 1900,
rudimentary by today's standards, or even virtually nonexistent.
Bituminous coal was the most widely available fuel in the cities,
although cordwood was used extensively in th e smaller cities and
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

towns, especially in the South and West. Central heating systems
were practically unknown, even in the largest and most "modern"
tenement buildings. Typical of the period were the Riverside
Buildings in Brooklyn, described by the U. S. Commissioner of
Labor in 1895 as a worthy "philanthropy" which had nevertheless proved to be a financial success:
There are no fireplaces. Slate slabs are fixed in the floors for
stoves, which are used for heating, to rest upon. There are no
heating registers . . . . Gas on the stairs, in the public hallways,
bathrooms, and office is furnished by the proprietor, but the tenants,
as a rule, burn oil in their rooms . . . . A cooking range is not furnished by the company, but there is a coalbox in each kitchen which
holds a quarter of a ton. 3



This was the condition of workers' housing in 1900. But
economic, legal, technical, and social forces were already in motion
to bring about changes. Appeals to public conscience regarding
slum housing problems had been made as early as 1834.

Regulatory Measures
New York City, as the Nation's largest center of immigration
and industry, exhibited almost the gamut of housing problems,
and it became the proving ground for housing legislation. The
first tenement house law was adopted for New York City in 1867,
forbidding dwellings in a cellar unless its ceiling was at least a
foot above ground, and setting a few sanitation standards. Next
came the tenement act of 1879, already mentioned, and Pennsylvania passed a tenement house law in 1895.
It was, however, the radically revised New York act of 1901
which stimulated housing legislation in other States. The new
law set higher standards for new construction of all types of
houses, requiring more nearly adequate light, air, open space,
and fire protection. Laws patterned after the New York act of
1901 were enacted between 1904 and 1919 in New J ersey, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Indiana, California, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, and Iowa.

Urban Growth
Early in the century the first signs of suburban expansion
began to appear. By 1912, the expansion of electric street railways made it possible in many communities for at least the higher
paid workers to escape from the shadow of the factory walls and
the confinement of the slums. In this period also, the struggle
for the shorter workday somewhat reduced work schedules.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Moreover, with the growing popularity of the motor vehicle
and improvements in highways, industries began to move out of
the cities, seeking more space, cheaper land, and a better environment for the workers. This movement made it possible for
even some of the unskilled factory workers to live in somewhat
better surroundings than the city slums.

War Housing
The first world war introduced a new phase in the development
of workers' housing. Private building was virtually suspended
during 1917 and 1918 as a result of Government restrictions,
high building costs, and the transfer of capital to other activities.
At the same time, serious housing shortages developed in the
war-production and shipbuilding centers. For the first time, the
Federal Government went into housing construction on a large
scale. In this enterprise the Department of Labor played a major
role, through its administration of the United States Housing
Corporation. The Housing Division of the Shipping Board also
was responsible for a large volume of housing built for shipyard
workers. Both agencies have been credited with setting improved
standards for small house design and community development
through these programs.
Government housing notwithstanding, the restriction on normal
building activity in the war years inevitably brought about conditions which led to doubling up of families, occupancy of makeshift quarters and dwellings unfit for habitation, and relaxation
of housing code enforcement by city authorities. Although their
earnings from wartime employment were high, workers found
it difficult to improve their housing conditions.

Housing at the End of World War I

It is difficult, looking back 40 years, to assess the status of
workers' housing in the period of the first world war. The only
comprehensive data available come from the family expenditure
survey of 1917- 19, which provided some information on the economic status of wage earners and salaried workers in 92 shipbuilding and industrial centers. That study, however, was made
in the midst of wartime conditions, when prices were rising
rapidly, and it excluded slum families.
The families in the 1917-19 survey allocated about 19 percent
of their expenditures for housing, fuel, and light, compared with
24 percent for the families in the 1901 survey. (See tables 3
and 4.) The reduction was due in large measure to an increase
of about one-fourth in their income, in dollars of equivalent pur-

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

-,_I -<·

;,. __../~--"r\, - -·'(
• i,



If, '•






- _ J.t1
i ;i:\



-- ; . ,

' ·: .~. ·--·-:;-----,_,,
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,_- . ~... > •· .,_




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; I 195J

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-~ - . ,--.. ,.

~...,; / ;/ ,'l-•X -•


-~ :,~, 'l; f--__ ~ ~, ... T



• -'.'-}-/ +:, ~



-';:.,.-' . '

i, .. . ~






- ._c·


:',l:BCRBA"K GROWTH- Automobil es and public transportation ba Ye made it poss ible for worke rs to inhabit s ubur0'>

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

ban areas remote from their places of n·ork. The~e mnp~ s il o\\" ho\\" far flung bas been the exten~ion of occupied
areas in two major c iti es of the n1ited States.

chasing power. Homeownership by wage earners had increased
substantiall y since the beginning of the century-27 percent of
the city workers owned their hom es in 1917- 19, compared with
19 percent in 1901.
Electricity had become widely available, and it was used for
lighting even in some of the older tenements. Gas was still, however, the most common illuminant in the urban workers' homes.
Forty-five percent of the familie s used gas for lighting, whereas
41 percent used electricity. Because manufactured gas was expensive, gas was r ar ely employed for heating except in areas near
gas fi elds. Twenty percent of the families included in the 1917- 19
study used gas for heating, but it should be noted that a substantial number of th e 92 cities surveyed were in areas where natural
gas was available in quantity. In any event, only half of the
room s in r ented qu arter s were equipped for heating.
The dwellings in which these families lived typically consisted
of 5 rooms. or about 1 room per per son, virtually the same as
in 1901. This fact suggests that the effect of excluding slum
dwellings from the 1917- 19 survey may have been partially offset
by wartime housing shortages . And among the nearly threefourth s of the families who were renters, more than 7 in every
10 lived in a dwelling whi ch had an inside watercloset, and somewhat over half had a full bathroom.
Booming Twenties

By 1921, privat e hom ebuilding was beginning to recover from
the effe ct s of war restrictions. This recovery continued until
1925, when 937,000 nonfarm dwelling units were started-a
record which was to stand for nearly a quarter-century. The
volum e of apartm ent house construction in th e early 1920's has
never been equal ed. Row houses , 2- and 3-story walkup apartment buildings, and single-family bungalows were built in sufficient quantities to provide new housi ng for higher paid industrial
workers. Perh aps th e mass of low-wage factory workers could
not afford these new homes, but it has been argued that they
benefit ed by having access to the old housing vacated by the
high er income fam ili es.
Hou s ing· Expenditures During the Depression

Not until after th e stock market crash of 1929 did the public
realize that h omebuilding had been sh owing a continuous decline
since 1925, and was then more t han 45 percent below the record

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

high. In 1933, only 93,000 new nonfarm dwelling units were
placed under construction. This was the nadir.
As the depression focused attention on changes in consumer
spending, the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1934 launched a new
survey of expenditures by wage-earner and clerical-worker fam ilies which provides another check-point on progress in workers'
housing. The study did not include detailed data for families
on relief and included no cities with populations of less than
50,000. Nevertheless, the information it provides on housing
casts a r evealing light on the progress achieved during the twenties. Among the families surveyed, 30 percent were homeowners,
as compared with 27 percent of those surveyed in 1917- 19, when
small cities were included in the study. In many of the qualities
of the hou sing available to workers, the gains were more impressive than in homeown ership.
The annual income of the families surveyed averaged $1,518.
(See table 5.) Of their total expenditures, over 25 percent was
devoted to housing, fuel, light, and refrigeration, a significantly
higher proportion than was found in the 1917- 19 s urvey. Since
the incomes of the 1934- 36 famili es, in constant dollars, averaged
about 10 percent higher, while 1·ents were at about the sam e level,
the increased proportion spent for housing may have been clue in
part to the rise in homeownership. Other factors which probably
exerted influence included improvement in the quality of hou sing,
higher fuel bills resulting from central h eating, and increased
utilization of electricity, not only for lighting but also for
electrical appliances. The fact that the percentage going for
hou sing declined from about 31 percent in the lowest income group
to 18 in the high est also suggests that substantial numbers of
families had attained a level of housing sufficientl y satisfactory
that they preferred to devote increases in income to procuring
other goods and services.
"The home of the typical wage earner or clerical fami ly with
an income above $500 had," according to the 1934- 36 stud y, "a
bathroom with inside flush toilet and hot running water. It had
electric lights and gas or electricity for cooking." '1 Among all
of the tenant families interviewed in 42 large cities, 98 percent
were living in dwellings supplied with running water, 90 percent
had bathrooms, and 96 percent had inside flush toilets. Owner occupied housing was even better equipped with these basic
essentials. Homeowners also had larger dwellings-an average
of 6.4 room s, compared with about 4 rooms for rented houses and
about 4½ for apartments.
The improvement in New York City was especially striking:
Over nine-tenths of the fam ilies occupi ed dwelling units equipped
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


with running hot water, inside flush toilet, electric light, and gas
or electricity for cooking. Of the dwelling units in New York
occupied by white families, 99 percent h ad inside flush toilets,
while all of those occupied by Negro families were provided with
such facilities.
Improvements were apparent; but in many facilities important
for health as well as comfort, large numbers of dwelling units
throughout the country, especially among those occupied by
Negro families, were gravely deficient.
The omission from the 1934-36 study of relief families and of
families with incomes below $500 leaves unanswered the question
as to how many seriously substandard dwelling units may have
been occupied by families not within the scope of the survey.
About one-fourth of the white wage-earner families in the $500$750 income class in New York City had living quarters which
were not equipped with running hot and cold water, inside flush
toilet, and electric lights. Presumably even less adequate housing could be obtained by families with smaller income. Estimates
prepared by the National Resources Committee at that time
showed 4.5 percent of the nonrelief families in large metropolitan
areas receiving under $500 in annual income. Certainly, the
plight of the unemployed workers and fami li es on relief was in
many instances desperate. Nevertheless, most workers had been
able to achieve far better housing than had been possible in the
early years of the century, or even during World War I.
Economic Recovery-Government Aid

Federal Housing Legislation.

The depression cns1s of the
early 1930's brought demands for Federal action to rescue the
lending institutions, prevent widespread foreclosures of home
mortgages, and provide a stimulant to the economy. The first
move occurred in 1932 with the passage of the Federal Home Loan
Bank Act, which established a nationwide system patterned after
the Federal Reserve System, to provide a credit reserve for savings and loan associations. This was followed in 1933 by the
establishment of the Home Owners' Loan Corporation, to finance
long-term loans at low interest rates for distressed homeowners
who were unable to refinance their delinquent loans through normal
Further legislation in 1934 completed a basic system of home
financing which set the stage for a new era in homebuilding,
bringing homeownership within reach of a vastly larger proportion of wage earners throughout the country. The National Housing Act of June 1934 created the Federal Housing Administration,

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

"to encourage improvement in housing standards and conditions,
and to provide a system of mutual mortgage insurance." The
new agency was authori zed to insure housing loans, upon application by the lender, provided the structure, the amount and
conditions of th e loan, and th e borrower's financial status met
its standards. Modern standards for construction, lot size, services, and faci lities were also required. Insurance on each dwelling
was extended only on a single, long-term mortgage, not exceeding
a stipulated maximum and r epayable in monthly installments.
Th e law initially limited interest to not more than 5 percent on
th e loan balance. The agency set the rate at 4½ percent, plus
a one-half of 1 percent mortgage insurance fee, and required that
taxes and fi re insurance premiums be included in the monthly
Such was the power of F ederal assistance in the uncertain
finan cial situation of that time th at residential loan practices were
substantially changed almost overnight. The prevalent method
of home financing involved two mortgages. The first-trust loan,
covering up to 60 percent of the appraised value of the property,
typically was due in full in 3 to 10 year s, with inter est at 6 percent or more. If the h ouse buyer r equired more credit, which
was usuall y the case among the middle-income groups, he h ad to
obtain a second-tru st loan , repayable in semiannual or annual
in stallm ents over a period of 3 to 4 year s, with interest at a
considerably high er rate. Under the new program , a first-mortgage monthly amortization loan for upwards of 80 percent of the
purchase price of a low-cost home could be obtained. The longterm amortized loan qui ckly became almost universal, for both
insured and noninsured housing loan s. Thus, the National Housing Act stimulated the constru ction of medi um-priced housing
indirectly as well as directly, although a majority of the new
nonfarm housing units built in most year s si nce its inception
have not been covered by FHA-insured mortgage loans.
L ow-Income H ousing. The act was not, however, intended as a
device for attackin g the problem of housing t he lowest income
families or for eliminating slums. The trade unions, concerned
with their member s' need for both jobs and homes, became actively
interested in th e housing problem in the 1930's. By 1934, the
American F ederati on of Labor had formulated a housing program,
the main fea tures of which were incorporated in the United
States Hou sing Act of 1937. Th e American Federation of Labor,
th e Congress of Industrial Organi zations, and now the combined
organization, have fo ugh t vigorously and continuou sly for programs to provide more and better housing for the low- and
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


middle-income groups, slum clearance and urban rehabilitation,
low interest loans for nonprofit housing cooperatives, and special
housing programs to meet the needs of elderly persons.
Labor organizations have also sponsored a few notable housing
projects financed by private lenders or with union funds (particularly, in recent years, pension and welfare funds). The first
major development of this type, the Amalgamated Clothing
Workers' project, built in 1927 in New York City under provisions
of the New York Limited Dividend Housing Companies Act, now
provides housing for 2,486 families. Others include the Carl
Mackley homes in Philadelphia, built by the American Federation
of Hosiery Workers in 1934, a Flushing, Long Island, development for 2,200 families sponsored by Local 3 of the International
Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in 1950- 54, and the Cooperative
Village of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union,
consisting of four 20- or 21-story apartment buildings, which
opened in New York City in 1955.
The United States Housing Act of 1937 authorized Federal
financial assistance to local communities "to remedy the unsafe
and insanitary housing conditions and the acute shortage of
decent, safe, and sanitary dwellings for families of low income."
To this end, local authorities sponsoring low-rent housing projects
were to receive Federal construction loans as well as annual cash
contributions to help meet operating deficits. Occupancy of the
public housi ng units is limited to families adjudged eligible by
Lhe local housing authority. One of th e major criteria for tenancy
is income-the family's net income may not exceed limits set by
the local authority. In addition, preference is given to families
living in substandard housing and those being displaced by slum
clearance programs.
In quantity terms, publicly owned housing is a minor factor in
the housing supply. From 1934, when the first public housing
projects were built under the Public Works Administration program, through 1956, about 650,000 new permanent nonfarm
dwelling units were constructed for government ownership. Private builders, using private funds, have built, for all groups, over
15 million units in the sam e period.
The real significance of public housing lies in its influence on
housing design and community development, especially in the very
large cities. With the construction of the "First Houses" in New
York City in 1937, the skyline began to change. Those public
housing buildings were relatively small-4 stories in height-but
they were surround ed by open spaces. Structures in later developments grew higher, to accommodate more low-income families,
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

but each project was planned as a complete community, with
parks, playgrounds, and community services. A prominent trade
magazine, although opposed to it in principle, in 1952 conceded
that "public housing since the war has done more to improve
design and planning of apartments at lower rentals than all private
enterprise in the same period." 5
These developments have replaced some of the worst slums
and decayed industrial properties, not only in the largest cities
but in a number of smaller communities throughout the country.
More recent public housing legislation has emphasized urban
rehabilitation, requiring the adoption of broad local programs for
redevelopment as a condition of Federal assistance. This,
together with the low-cost financing provided under various
Government loan insurance programs, has stimulated private
construction of large, modern apartment buildings, many of which
are within the rent range of higher paid wage earners.

Stimulated by general economic recovery and the support of
the Government loan insurance programs, the housing industry
began to recover rapidly after the depression. In 1941, the volume
of new nonfarm dwelling units placed under construction reached
706,100. With the onset of World War II, new housing starts
fell far below the volume needed to keep pace with population
increases. Again the critical need for workers' housing in the
rapidly growing war production centers led to the adoption of a
variety of expedients. Rent controls were established to protect
the workers and to help prevent inflation. Thousands of temporary and demountable dwelling units were erected. For the first
time, the house trailer became an important factor in worker
housing, gaining a degree of acceptance which it has apparently
retained. (Spokesmen for the trailer manufacturers claim that
upwards of 1 million house trailers are now in use, with over 60
percent owned by workers.)
With demobilization after the war and the return to private
life of millions of young men, the housing crisis became acute
and there were insistent demands for Government action. The
most effective action taken, and one which made it possible for
hundreds of thousands of wage earners to buy homes, was the
Veterans Readjustment Act of 1944, which provided, among other
things, for Government guarantee of loans to veterans for home
purchase. By the end of 1957, over 5 million "GI" home loans
had been made-almost 3 million of these for new homes. The
veterans' loan guaranty program has emphasized low interest
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


rates, low downpayments or none at all, and repayment periods
extending to 30 years. On this basis, almost any employed veteran could qualify for a modest home.
The cumulative effect of the veterans' guaranty program,
FHA ins urance, and constantly increasing housing demand generated by population growth and higher incomes, brought an
unprecedented volume of new housing activity. Huge suburban
developments have been created to meet the housing demand supported by the GI loan and the FHA insurance programs. The
annual number of new nonfarm dwelling units placed under construction exceeded 1 million for the first time in 1949, and remained
above that level through 1957. Despite increasing costs of land
and construction, a large share of these new houses have been
bought by wage earners and salaried workers.

Extent of Homeownership
The main trends in housing since the turn of the century
suggest the extent to which the American worker has shared in
housing improvements. Although homeowning is still beyond the
reach of many wage earners and salaried employees, our social
and economic system has succeeded in providing the ways and
means by which a majority of the workers can obtain homes of
t h eir own if they wish. Homeownership is not denied them,
alt h ough they may choose to use their resources in other ways.
In 1950, 53 percent of the occupied nonfarm dwelling units were
owned by their occupants, and indications are that the proportion
has continued to rise. Th e proportion of ownership by urban
workers was almost as high-nearly 51 percent, or more than
2½ times the percentage in 1901. Homeownership among worker
famili es was lowest in the North, 47 percent, and highest in the
West, 58 percent; in the South, it was 54 percent. The lower
percentage in the North is explained by the larger and older cities,
t h e greater avai lability of multiple-family dwelling units, the
higher costs of housing associated with the climate, and the lack
of land convenientl y located for low-cost single-family housing.
In the West, wh ere population growth has been extremely rapid
in recent years, cities have been built on a broader scale, and have
not developed th e dense urban core typical of the older cities
which grew large before the automobile age.
Despit e the enormous increase in homeownership, a large proportion of wage earners are and probably will continue to be
renters. Many homeowners may have bought houses in recent

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

years because of their inability to rent satisfactory quarters.
Certainly the proportion of new residential building intended for
rental has been declining since the beginning of the thirties. In
the decade 1920- 29, about 30 percent of the new nonfarm dwelling
units built were in two-family and multifamily structures; in the
period 1930- 56, all but 16 percent of the total were in single-family
houses. Moreover, most of the additions to the single-family
housing supply in recent years have been built for sale, whereas
in the 1920's many investors found it profitable to build such
housing and hold it for the rental income.
Cost and Choice of Housing in 1950
Whether they owned or rented their homes, city workers' families in 1950, with more than twice the income, in dollars of
equivalent purchasing power, of their 1901 counterparts, were
able to devote a substantially smaller share of their expenditures
to housing, fuel, and light-15 instead of 24 percent. (See tables
3 and 6, pp. 40 and 46.) Moreover, the relative importance of
expenditures for shelter declined more rapidly in 1950 as fami ly
income rose. ( See chart 4, p. 76.)
The proportion spent on hou sing, heat, and light also varied
with the occupation of the chief earner and the climate in which
the family lived. Clerical and sales workers spent the most and
unskilled workers the least in all regions-in terms of actual
amounts expended. (See table 9, p. 54.) And for all groups of
workers-white-collar, skilled, semiskilled, and unskilled-expenditures for housing were highest in the North and lowest in the
South. Skilled workers, for example, reported average expenditures for housing, fuel, light, and refrigeration of $628 in the
North, as against $558 in the South and $561 in the West.
These figures represent the annual cost of housing, whether
owned or rented. The relative cost of ownership and renting was
the subject of a study of buyers and renters of new housing in
9 large metropolitan areas, made in 1949 and 1950 by the Bureau
of Labor Statistics. In the market situation of that time, the
homeseeker in most of the areas could buy more cheaply than he
could rent new quarters providing approximately equivalent living
space. Other considerations in the choice between buying and
renting are suggested in a report on interviews with new home
buyers, conducted by the Survey Research Center of the University of Michigan in 1949-50. That study revealed that more
than half of those interviewed had never previously owned a home.
Some were heads of newly formed families, but most had been
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Chert 4

By Urban Wage -Earner and Clerical -Worker Famil ies 1
Se lected Years , 1901 , 1917 -19, 1934-36, and 1950

Percen t of
Total Expendi t ures fa r Cu rre nt Con sump t ion

Income Leve I


UNDER $200
$ 5 00 4NO UNDER
$ 600 AND U N DE R
$ 700 A NO UNDER
$ 9 00 AN D UNDER
$1 ,00 0 A NO U N DE R
$1, I 00 A N O UN DE R
$1,200 ANO OV ER


$ 300
$ 4 00
$ 500
$ 600
$ 700
$ 800
$ 900
$1, 000
$I, I 00

1917- 19
UNDER $900
900 A NO U N DER
$1,200 ANO UNDER
$ I, 5 00 A HO UNDER
$ 1, 800 AND U NDER
$ 2 , I 00 ANO UND ER
$2,500 A NO OV ER

$ 1,200
$ I, 8 00
$2, I 00

6 00
$ 90 0
$ I, 2 00
$ I, 5 00
$1 , 800
$2, I 00


60 0
$1 , 2 00
$ I, 500
$ I, 800
!i 2,100
$2,4 00


UNDE R $1, 000
$1,000 A ND UN D ER $2,000
$ 2 , 0 00 A ND UNDER $3,000
$3 ,000 ANO UND ER $4,QQQ
$ 4 ,000 ANO UN DER $5 ,000
$5,000 A ND U N DER $6, 00 0
$6,000 ANO U NDER $7,500
$ 7,5 00 A NO U NDER $1 0,0 00
$1 0, 000 A NO OVER
1 Fa milie s of 2 or Mo re Pe rsons .

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis









Their chief reasons for buying were summarized as
P erre n t

re purting

Rent too high; ownership cheaper ___ ____________________________
Buying is an investment _________ ______________________________
Ideal of homeownership _______________________________________
Forced to buy; could find no place to rent_ _________ _______________
Desire for independence; sec urity ______________ __ ______________


SlH Tlt<'E: Jl o u :-:ii n g R esearch, H ousing a nd H onw Fin a nce Ag-enc y, O<:tobt'I' 1\1 0~ .

The average employed worker's family seeking a home today in
a large city has as a rule only three choices: to rent an apartment
in a fairly old building; to buy an older house; or to buy a new
ew apartment house projects are rarely designed to meet
the worker's needs at rent he can afford to pay. The number of
single-family rental houses, except in some of the small towns and
medium-size cities, is relatively insignificant. If he buys an older
house, the worker may have a fairly wide choice, but he may find
it difficult to obtain advantageous financing. In increasing num•
hers, therefore, wage-earner and clerical-worker families have
been buying homes in the rapidly growing suburban housing
Renting, however, appeals to large numbers of workers with
families; for personal reasons, they prefer to rent even when
buying an equity in a home is feasible. Others may be deterred
from buying by fear that they wi111ose their jobs for such reasons
as an unfavorable economic outlook in their occupation, industry, or
community, the introducti on of new methods or processes, or a
business recession.
Some indication of the relative desirability of owned and rented
housing is found in housing surveys conducted by the Bureau of
Labor Statistics in 1950- 52. The homeowner typically lived in a
single-family house. The renter, by contrast, was apt to live in
a single-family house only if he lived in the South or West. This
type of dwelling comprised more than half of all rental dwellings
in 8 of the 19 small cities, in 6 of the 27 medium-size cities, but in
only 2 of the 29 large cities-all in the South or West. Two- to
four-family structures predominated in 13 of the 29 large cities
and in several of the medium-size and small cities. Half or more
of the rented units were apartments in 5 large cities only.
The hom eowner usually had more spacious quarters. In no city
did more than half the owner-occupied dwellings have less than
5 rooms. On th e other hand, half the rented dwellings had as
many as 5 rooms in only 4 of the large cities; in 23 large and
medium-size cities, the median room count was 3, and in 29 cities,
4. It was 3 in 8 of the 19 small cities and 4 in the other 11.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Owners had dwellings of substantially better quality than
renters, the report on the surveys indicated, to the extent that
having a complete private bath indicates quality. The proportion
of owner-occupied units with a bathroom exceeded 90 percent in
33 of the 56 large and medium-size cities. It was less than 80
percent only in Birmingham, Memphis, and Mobile. On the other
hand, 1 out of 3 rented units lacked a complete private bath in 34
of the 75 cities-small, medium-size, and large cities scattered
throughout the country.
Similarly, a higher proportion of owned than of rented units had
gas or electricity for cooking, mechanical refrigerator, and central
heating equipment in nearly all cities.
The foregoing comparisons, of course, relate to all housingnew and old. For workers who chose to buy a new house, some
clues to its description and cost are found in a Bureau of Labor
Statistics study of representative new nonfarm 1-family houses
on which construction was started in 1956. Half of the houses
were designed to sell for $14,5'00 or less, including land; 4 percent
had a selling price of less than $7,000; 10 percent, of $7,000$9,999; and 13 percent, $10,000-$11,999. (The average factory
worker earned $80 a week in 1956, so most lending institutions
would consider him a sound loan risk on houses in these price
The average floor area of the new houses of 1956 was 1,230
square feet, with 5 percent of the units having less than 800 square
feet, 17 percent from 800 to 999, and 31 percent from 1,000 to
1,199. Only 1 percent were 1-bedroom houses; 20 percent had 2,
and 70 percent had 3 bedrooms. For the family of average size,
a 3-bedroom house would provide at least 1 ½ rooms per person.
This is a vivid contrast to the ratio of about 1½ persons per room
which prevailed in the city slums in 1893 and a marked improvement over the average of 1.04 persons per room observed in the
broader 1901 survey of city workers.
Most of the houses were supplied with electricity, running water,
and bathrooms, and had water heaters and some type of central
heating system. The few exceptions occurred in the warm southern States and in the small, low-priced structures. In over onethird of the houses, the sales price included the cost of a kitchen
range. One-third also included an electric garbage disposal unit ;
11 percent had dishwashers; and 55 percent were equipped with
kitchen exhaust fans. All of these items were included in the
selling price, and the buyer could spread his cost over a long
period at a low interest rate.
The growing popularity of homeownership raises again the
often-debated question whether workers who own homes lack the
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

mobility needed for optimum distribution of the labor force and
for best utilization of their skills. It has been argued that a homeowner may be reluctant to seek or accept a better paying job in
another neighborhood or city, because of the risk of loss if he
sells his house. There is some evidence, however, that the worker
can buy or sell a house with relative ease and a minimum of risk,
as a result of the countrywide growth of a liberal system of
financing and a large volume of modern housing at various prices
in most cities. Moreover, the general ownership of automobiles, in
conjunction with the increasing dispersal of industry and employment within a given metropolitan area, has enabled the worker
more readily to change jobs without changing his place of residence. Finally, the rise in homeownership may have restrained
but it does not seem to have reduced population mobility. Census
data show that the movement of population varied little, in percentage terms, during the 9 years 1948- 56. In 1948, and again
in 1955, 19.9 percent of the population moved. The high point of
the period was 21.0 percent in 1951, and the low point was 18.6
in 1954.
Home and Community
Population movements within the United States during the
present century have been of two major kinds: from the farm to
the city, and from the city to the suburbs. The first was relatively
more important in urban growth during the first decades of t he
century. Between 1940 and 1950, however, the population of
metropolitan areas livi ng outside the central cities grew 2½ times
as fast as that in the cities. Slightly more than half of the Nation's increase in population in th at decade occurred in the portions
of metropolitan areas outside the central cities.
It is in these new suburbs that most of the tremendous volume
of postwar house building has occurred. Approximately 70 percent of the new housing in metropolitan areas has been built
outside the central cities of those areas in recent years.

The Seamy Side. In the wake of this development, blighted areas
and slums in the central cities h ave occasioned increasing concern.
The role of public housing in remedying such conditions has already been discussed. In addition, a variety of actions have been
taken by municipal and State governments and private groups to
prevent th e deterioration of bli ghted areas into slums. The condition of the houses in these areas is illustrated by a description of
a home in a Baltimore area where a pilot program was launched
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


in 1952 to bring the houses into compliance with the minimum
standards of the city housing code:
The only plumbing on the entire property was an outside toilet
whic h did not function properly an d which was enclosed by a small
outh ouse almost ready to fall over. In the kitchen there was an old
iron sink whose drain was so rusted away that waste water ran out
onto the ground through a h ole in the wall, rather than into a sewer.
The structural condition of the house was very bad: Leaking roof;
deteriorated and mi ssing rainspouting; broken, worn, and loose door s
and windows; floors weak and rickety, paper and plaster falling
from walls and ceilings throughout the house, stair treads deeply
worn and hazardou s, outside and cellar steps dangerously rickety,
and electrical wiring defective and dangerous. The hou se was
riddled by rats and infested with bedbugs and roaches. The only
heat had been furnished by a little kerosene stove in one room.
The cellar was damp and filled with trash. The yard, covered with
trash, junk, garbage, and raw sewage, did not drain properly and
was surrounded by an extremely dilapidated 6½-foot board fence. 6

The owners of such houses, which were regarded as blighted but
fundamentally sound, were helped to overcome financial barriers
to compliance with the housing code by the Fight-Blight Fundan organization of Baltimore businessmen. The owners were
handicapped in some cases by age, inability to work, or low-paying
,iobs. "Perhaps the most striking characteristic of the cases referred to the Fund," a report on the Fund's activities pointed out,
"is the incredible array of misfortunes which beset this entire
group of families-often temporarily reducing income or increasing expenses. . .. the single most common factor contributing
to financial hardship was the heavy load of short-term debts which
the owners had taken on in trying to meet the housing requirements. The total monthly obligations resulting . . . frequently
were . . . completely out of line with monthl y income. " '
N ew Suburbs. Seemingly remote from the blighted area, although actually only a few miles away, is the suburban residential
comm unity containing single-family detached homes together with
shops, schools, churches, recreation centers, and service establishments. Hundreds of such communities have sprung up around
large cities, all connected to the central core by the daily ebb and
flow of commuter traffic. As these communities grow, they frequently have difficulty in obtaining sufficient government revenue
to meet the cost of schools and community facilities . This leads
to efforts to attract industries and business establi shments as a
means of broadening the property tax base, with the result that
the suburbs begin to take on the characteristics of integrated
satellite cities. In some instances, such satellite towns have been
planned and developed with most of the attributes of self-contained
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

PLANNED COMMUNITIES-Del iberately planned, entirely new townships of relatively inexpens ive homes have sprung up. Wide surfaced
roads connect with the main highway. Public buses provide transportation. In a few years, trees and flowers will add to the pleasure of living
here. In the distance, see the commun ity shopp ing center and the community lake.

communities, including local industry. Conspicuous examples are
Park Forest, a new postwar city of 25,000 population located 30
miles south of Chicago, and Levittown, Pa. , built on a massproduction basis to house employees of a new steel mill and other
newly established industries in what was until recently a farming
The typical occupants of these new communities are young,
growing families, seeking light, air, and play space for their children. A report on Developing Patterns of Urban Decentralization
finds that they include "people with a wide range of social and
economic characteristics." 8 Factory workers, retail clerks, building craftsmen, and other wage and salary earners can afford to
buy houses in the new suburbs. The second and succeeding generations of the immigrants wh o flooded the Nation's cities early
in this century move out and merge with descendants of the im-
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


migrants of th e 18th and 19th centuries. Sharing common but
diversified experiences in military service, in schools and colleges
and trade schools, in churches, in labor organizations and other
associations, and in their jobs, they take their places in the remarkable social experiments of the new suburbias.
1 The Hou sing of the Poor in Amer ican Cities (in Publica tio1is of the
Arnerican Economic Association, Vol. VIII, Nos. 2 and 3, March and May,
1893, p. 239) .
" E. R. L. Gould, The Ho using of the Working People, Eighth Special Report of the Commissioner of Lab or (Washington, Government Printing Office,
1895), p. 442.
3 I bid., p. 179.
4 Faith M. Williams and Alice C. Hanson, Money Disbursements of Wage
Earners and Clerical Worke1·s, 1934-3/J, Summary Volume, U.S. Bureau of
Labor Statistics Bulletin 638 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1941 ),
p. 4.
0 Architectural Fo1-wm, cited in Nineteenth Annual R eport of New York
City Ho using Authority (New York, 1952) , p. 15.
G The E vening Sun, Baltimore, January 4, 1954.
M. Mead Smith, Financial Hardship Cases Handled by the Fight-Blight
Fund (in Monthly Labor Review, August 1955, p. 886).
8 Noel P. Gist (in Social Forces, March 1952, p. 265).

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


The Homemaker's Job and the Home Scene
A comfortable house . . . rnnk:; 'irnniediatelu
after health ancl a good conscience.
-Sydney Smith.

Attitudes of woFkers and their wives toward housekeeping have
changed very greatly in the United States since the early 1900's.
Many of the changes that have occurred become quickly apparent
from a brief review of the homemaker's chores at the turn of th e
In 1900, a job description for the average worker's wife would
have read something like this:
• Sh.opping for the family's food (daily in families without refrigerators);
toting it upstairs if the family lived in a tenement.
• Cooking three meals a day for the family, including the baking of
bread, cakes, and pies (helped occasionally by purchases from the local
bakery), and washing the dishes and the cooking pots and pans.
• Bringing in water from the public tap in the court.
• Filling oil lamps and trimming wicks dai ly; washing lamp chimneys and
shades every other day.
• Making up beds and keeping them and the house at large free from
• Cleaning out a privy or a flush toilet shared with other families.
• Keeping the cookstove and, wh en she had one, the stove in the living
room supplied with fuel; emptying the ashes.
• Disposing of garbage and trash.
• Emptying the pan under the icebox.
• Washing all the family clothes and household linens by hand, hanging
~hem out to dry, and ironing them.
• Mopping uncarpeted floors at least once a week and sweeping those
carpeted; cleaning carpeted floors with a carpet sweeper once a day.
• Making dr esses and underwear for herself and the girl children of the
family, as well as "running up" curtains for windows as necessary.
• Mending clothes f or the entire family (this ranged from sewing patches
on overalls and workshirts with the sewing machine to delicate darns of
ceremonial baby clothes which served successive babies in a number of
• Spring and fall housecleaning; that is, washing windows, cleaning cupboards and closets, washing and ironing curtains and drapes, taking up and
beating rugs and carpets and putting them down aga in.
• Nursing the sick in her own fam ily or among her boarders and neighbors.

Interspersed with these aspects of the housewife's job were the
responsibilities of looking after the children too young to be in
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


school and the older ones before and after school. Many household chores were of course assigned to older children.
By 1950, the housewife's job description had radically changed,
largely because higher real incomes and technological progress had
given her a vastly different dwelling in which to live and work, and
different tools with which to keep it. But the change was also due
in part to the transfer of important duties of the 1900 job from
home to factory or to service establishment. In addition, higher
standards of municipal housekeeping had resulted in improved and
extended city water and sewage systems and garbage and trash
collection. Moreover, improvements in disease control and health
had cut down on her duties as a home nurse. And, finally, her
higher level of education and the wider availability of information
on housekeeping methods made her more efficient.
Even so, the housewife's workload has not declined as much as
might have been expected from the change in her working conditions in the home. Because income is higher and it is now
possible to keep the dwelling and its furnishings and the family
clothing cleaner and smarter than in 1900, the worker and his wife
and their children expect a higher standard to be maintained. The
dwelling is larger and there are more appliances to get out of order.
In addition, the American worker and his wife have gradually
acquired a different attitude toward the housekeeping job. With
the greater availability and attractiveness of factory and office
work for women, particularly since 1940, the worker's fami ly has
often applied the earnings of the wife and mother toward the
purchase of laborsaving devices or a house of its own. In some
families where the wife is working outside the home, much of her
housekeeping job is taken over by the husband and the older
Obviously, conditions of housekeeping in workers' families at
the turn of the century varied greatly from one group to another
and in different parts of the country. Doing the job in a city
tenement was a very different matter from keeping house in the
best of the small factory towns, where single-family houses predominated.
For many housewives, industrial homework complicated the
housekeeping task, both in large cities and some smaller towns,
particularly in the Northeast. Most industrial homework was connected with the garment industries and related trades, and thread,
ravelings, snips of cloth, and bundles of goods in process often
cluttered the homes where it was carried on.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Condition of Houses
No comprehensive data are available on workers' housekeeping
in the early 1900's. In the 1901 expenditure survey made by the
United States Bureau of Labor, however, "an effort was made to
ascertain the condition of the homes as to sanitation, furnishings,
and cleanliness." But since the Bureau's field agents often did
not have the opportunity to inspect the premises thoroughly, having no authority as sanitary officers, "in many families it was
quite impossible to secure a knowledge of these conditions." 1
However, the observations that were made gave a basis for the
following impressions:

P ercent of dwe llings rated Good

Sanitation __ ___
Ji' urnishings __ __

Cleanliness ____ _







The report on the survey commented on the relatively high
proportion of the workers' homes which were described as
"cleanly" as follows:
The fact th at nearly 80 percent of the families were found in a
good condition as to cleanliness, while only 61 percent lived under
good sanitary conditions and had hom es well furni shed, indicates
that there was a disposition to Jive under a s good conditions a s
possible. Many families that could not afford to live under good
sanitary conditions or have their homes well furnished could be, and
were, cleanly.2

At that time, refuse collection and disposal were coming to be
recognized as municipal responsibilities, but less widely so than
the water supply. In 1902 and 1903, of the 175 cities of over 25,000
population, 80 reported that ashes were disposed of by the householder, and in 45, garbage disposal was also a household chore.
Bituminous coal was the dominant fuel used for both cooking
and heating in wage earners' and clerical workers' homes in most
parts of the country, but anthracite was used extensively in New
England and the Middle Atlantic States and wood was the main
fuel in the smaller mill towns of the South. In many neighborhoods where workers lived, children were regularly sent to pick
up coal along the railroad tracks, to collect wood from discarded
crates, packing boxes, and scaffolding at wharves, warehouse districts, and construction projects. Manufactured gas was available
in many cities, but it was expensive. Workers did use it for
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


lighting but they seldom used it for heating. An observer in
Homestead, a suburb of Pittsburgh, pointed out that in 1908
"housework may be materially lightened by the use of gas instead
of coal, and in Homestead with its supply of natural gas, the relaLive cost is not great . . . . But even with care its use for baking,
washing and ironing as well as heating makes the bills grow and
an income of $12 a week does not permit a gas bill of $2.50 a
month, that of one careful housekeeper, nor the purchase of gas
ranges." 3 Reliance on gas even in Homestead was, therefore,
apparently a solution to housekeeping problems only for workers
with above-average incomes.
A tudy of li ving conditions among cotton mill workers in 1908
indicated that although some had electric lights, most of them were
using oil lamps for light. For the housewife, this meant keeping
the lamps filled with oil and trimming wicks in addition to cleaning the chimneys. Frequently, however, the lamp chimneys used
in the early 1900's protected gas mantles, and the chimneys were
further covered by a decorative china lamp shade. A gas mantle
thus shaded provided a well-diffused soft light which made quite
a pleasant illumination. They were in contrast to the ugly, unprotected gas flares found in less prosperous and less well-tended
Furniture and Equipment

o actual inventories of furniture and homefurnishings exist
for workers' homes early in the century. The 1901 expenditure
survey showed only that about 15 percent of the families reported
no expenditure for "furniture and utensils."
Pictures, however, show that those of the more prosperous had
living rooms with curtains at the windows, drapes, an organ or
piano, large upholstered chairs or sofa, and a carpet on the floor.
The carpet was usually an Axminster, woven in 27-inch strips,
sewn together and then stretched and tacked down to the floor
over layers of newspaper and straw. Antimacassars ("tidies"),
which had to be washed periodically, protected the backs of chairs
and sofas. The presence of a "baseburner" stove, which was essential if the living room was to be used in the winter, was an almo t infallible index of a family's economic status.
Families with only a cookstove spent much time in the kitchen
in the colder months of the year, in much the same fashion
recalled by the present musical director of the ational Broadcasting Co., whose family lived in a "3-room railroad flat" in
New York City about 1900:

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Perhaps because of the accessibility of the light refreshment that
it was customary to offer guests, the kitchen rather than the parlor
became the living room until bedtime, and all social life centered in
it. Made comparatively presentable after a long day of cooking, eating, and the washing of dishes and laundry, it was the scene of
formal calls at our house and of the visits of friends and prospective

The bedrooms of the more prosperous workers were furnished
with heavy matching wood furniture-bedsteads, chiffoniers,
dressers, washstands, a nd wardrobes, or with metal beds (iron
painted white, with brass trimmings) and hand-painted furniture.
Families with grandmothers or maiden aunts adept at needlework
had finely quilted bedspreads in bright patchwork or more formal
flower patterns. The floor was covered with straw matting, or
" floor oilcloth," as the type of linoleum produced in 1900 was then
Homes of some of the workers with above-average earnings had
dining rooms with matching dining room sets of oak or walnut,
usually made in a nearby factor y. Kitchens in such homes had
(in addition to the stove on which the family meals were cooked
and which also provided heat in winter) a table used not only for
food preparation but frequently also for family meals, several
plain wooden chairs, and wooden cupboards for dishes, pots, and
If the 1900 fami ly had an ice chest, it was often placed on the
"back stoop" just outside the kitchen door. This protected it
from the heat of the cookstove in summer and took advantage of
the refrigeration provided by nature in winter, but also increased
the number of steps taken by the housewife in getting and clearing
away meals. If the family did not have an ice chest, food on hand
might be stored in a "safe" or "cooler"-a cupboard with hooked,
tightly fitted screened doors to keep out flies and provide ventilation-which had many sh ortcomings as a way of storing perishable
foods. If the house had a cellar, the safe might be placed there,
even though it increased the housewife's workload. There was
generally no problem about wher e to put the telephone, because, in
1900, most families could not afford private telephone service.
The furniture and furnishings in the homes of workers with
smaller earnings varied widely from this typical end-of-the-century
design, depending on location, history of the family and its wanderings, and fami ly income in relation to the size and composition
of the fami ly.
Washing and ironing the family clothes and the bed and table
linen was one of the heavier jobs of h ousewives in workers' families. Except in cases of sickness, they rarely sent the laundry
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


out. The equipment to be used for getting the laundry done in
American homes was described in one of the national women's
magazines in 1901:
The things absolutely necessary in doing a family washing are
tubs, washboard, boiler, clothes-s tick, pail, long-handled dipper,
clothes lines and pin s, iron s, and ironing board. In addition to these,
when possible one should have a good wringer, mangle, hot or cold,
separate boards for s hirts, s hirtwaists, and sleeves, shirt bosoms,
and trousers.s

Many workers' wives at the beginning of the century did not
have all the "absolutely necessary" things. They were more likely
to have only one tub (wooden or galvanized iron), a washboard, a clothes line, and an iron and an ironing board. Some of
them, however, had washing machines based on the principle of
removal of dirt by friction, which had been used in washing clothes
throughout recorded time. Handcranked wooden washers retained
the rubbing principle through grooved sides and bottoms and
paddles, and one had a device resembling a three-legged stool attached to its cover. If the kitchen had the requisite water supply,
washers powered by water could be used by attaching a hose to
the faucet. The 1908 report on the Homestead study reported that
one of the steelworkers had such a machine. However, use of such
a washing machine would not have been possible in a large proportion (if not in most) of the workers' homes in 1900, because
their homes did not have running water.
At the beginning of the century, relatively few of the workers'
families still had to make soft soap for laundering and other
cleaning. Bars of heavy yellow soap were the rule in the kitchen
and although some soap powders were on the market, soap flakes
were a rarity.
Methods of cleaning house for most families centered upon the
broom and a brush. When the broom was the chief cleaning instrument available, preparations for cleaning a room were more
extensive than the actual cleaning. This was particularly true
during the annual spring cleaning. Bric-a-brac was dusted,
draperies were taken down, and rugs were carried outdoors to be
aired and hung on a line and beaten with a stick or heavy carpet
beater. Cleaning the intricate carvings and designs on woodwork
and furniture was also a time-consuming task. All furniture was
covered or carried out of the room before the vigorous sweeping
with the broom began. The object was to sweep just as hard as
possible; the more dust raised, the cleaner the rug would beso it was believed. Actually, all that this effort accomplished was
to spread the dust over a broader area. Quite often, tea leaves
or coarse meal and water were scattered over the rug and swept
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

off to remove dust and to brighten colors. Following these operations, the room was aired and perhaps a carpet sweeper was
used. Finally the rug was wiped with a cloth dipped in ammonia
and water.

The first extensive information on housekeeping accessories
was provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as part of its 191719 study of expenditures by families of wage earners and lower
salaried workers. Even that survey is largely an indirect source
of information; the report tells what families bought in one year,
not what they owned. The figures on purchases imply, however,
that a larger proportion of the workers' wives had the help of automatic devices than was the case in 1900.
Unfortunately, this survey did not call for separate figures on
purchases of carpet sweepers and vacuum cleaners, although the
latter represent one of the most important instances of the
mechanization of housekeeping. The percent of all families purchasing one or the other of those household helps rose sharply
with income, and the average expenditure for families buying one
or the other seems to indicate that quite a large proportion of
those whose incomes exceeded the average of about $1,500 (equivalent to at least $2,400 in 1950) were then buying vacuum cleaners.
(Although there had been an estimated 150 makes of vacuum
cleaners on the market in 1911, electric cleaners did not become
common in the homes of wage earners until at least 20 years later.)
Sewing machines were much more generally bought than washing machines-8.l percent compared with 3 percent of all families
surveyed. Significantly, the percent of families buying washing
machines increased progressively from the lowest to the highest
level of family income; in the case of sewing machines, it increased
from the lowest to the next level of income, then became fairly
stable, but actually declined in the highest income level. The small
proportion of families at the highest income level buying sewing
machines may indicate that such fami lies bought more of their
clothing readymade, particularly in view of the fact that 7 in 10
of them reported income from the earnings of older children.
Moreover, it is somewhat more probable t hat these families had
purchased machines in earlier years.
The proportion of families buying washtubs was nearly 4 times
as large as the proportion buying washing machines, and over 3
times as many bought wash boilers. A new washtub or a wash
boiler was still something many women wanted; the percent buying them rose steadily with income. Still more rapid was the rise
in the percentage of families buying window and door screens.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


KITCHEN STILL IS KING- In the old-fashioned boardinghouse type of
kitchen, the cook labored mightily to produce turkey as a special treat.
Scientific breeding has improved the quality and availability of turkey, and
the modern kitchen, with its gas s tove or electric stove and laborsaving devices, gives the housewife more time to herself.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Expenditure figures from the 1917- 19 survey indicate rather
widespread use of laundry service outside the home. The proportion of white workers whose expenditures included laundry
services was largest in the South Atlantic States, as shown in the
following tabulation :
A vrrug-t• amount
Percent of
families rc norting s pr• nt pf• r year per
fa n1il y purcliasi ng


:--ortb Alla111ir Stall's __ _
>;o uth A tlantic States __

ti9. 2

~ortb CL•ntral ~tatt'S

li3. 8

:South Central S tates __ _
\\-rs tnn Stat<'s _

i2. 2
i3. -!

Uni tf•d :-- 1at1•s ________ _____________ _____ ____ ______ _______ __ _

;s s



.i l:J. :IU
JI. ~7
l:J. tiU
26. 4;
Ii. ll

17. 91

Even in the North Central States, where the overall percentage
of families reporting such expenditures was lowest, 31 percent of
the families in the lowest income range bought some laundry
services. Nevertheless, the sums thus used were so small as to
indicate resort by most families to outside laundry service only
in emergencies or as an occasional luxury.
The proportion of families making expenditures for domestic
service at the end of World War I also varied from region to region,
obviously in relation to the wages for domestic workers. The
extremes occurred in the North Atlantic and South Central States:
11 and 34 percent of the workers' families recorded expenditures
which averaged $22 and $30 a year in the respective regions.
Data on regional differences in wage rates imply that the families
in the South Central States received more hours of work per
dollar than those in the North Atlantic States.
The survey also affords evidence of other important changes.
The proportion of families buying carpets rose sharply with income, the buying of linoleum and floor oilcloth rose very slightly
as income increased, and the buying of matting rose hardly at all.
The percent of families buying carpets (24 percent) was, on the
average, not quite double that for linoleum and floor oilcloth, but
it was almost 8 times the percent buying matting.
Data collected for 1917- 19 include the first comprehensive information about a highly significant trend among workers' families,
namely, the use of installment credit. Installment buying had been
introduced to wage and clerical workers in this country as early as
1870, primarily in the purchase of sewing machines, furniture,
and pianos, but the 1917- 19 survey provides the first record of
the extent of its use countrywide by these occupational groups.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


The 1901 survey had shown that about one-tenth of the families
surveyed had obtained credit during the year, but since these
were families who had incurred a deficit, it is unlikely that they
had so reported installment debt. More probably, installment
payments were recorded simply as current expenditures.
A recent tabulation from the original 1917- 19 family spending
schedules shows that 23 percent of the families surveyed reported
some installment buying of furniture and furnishings. The largest
proportion for any region was in the South-28 percent. Among
Negro families surveyed at the time, 34 percent used installment
The kinds of goods bought on credit by workers' families, white
and Negro, ranged widely. By way of example, 40 percent of the
sewing machines bought were purchased on the installment plan;
37 percent of bureaus, chiffoniers, dressing tables; 33 percent of
couches, davenports, sofas; 30 percent of tables; 28 percent of
bedsprings; 20 percent of carpets. A few families even reported
installment purchases of such items as mops and brooms.
The information is indicative of the rise of living standards,
or ambitions for living, above the actual levels of living. These
serve to emphasize the extent to which workers' living standards
were higher than their actual levels of living and the eagerness
with which they grasped the opportunity presented by the development of installment credit to buy time, quite literally, in improving their homes.
In the middle 1930's, when figures on family expenditures were
gathered from employed workers in large cities, some information
was obtained on the kind of household equipment being used.
Those families were better off than the average worker's family in
1934- 36, because the survey was restricted to families in which at
least one earner had a specified amount of employment and excluded families who had r eceived relief during the year.
The economic climate of the middle 1930's, as well as the distinctive characteristics of the wage earners and clerical workers
wh ose expenditures were studied at that time, profoundly affected
their current outlays for housefurnishings and equipment. Total
consumer expenditures for durable goods dropped in the years
1930- 33. The red uction was naturally accompanied by a considerable decline in consumer installment credit outstanding, and, until
1933, in consumer credit extended. By 1934- 36, the gradual
*Possibly there is an element of historical continuity with the transitional period after the
Ci vil War. During the period, "going in debt" wns ingrained by the a lmos t complete dependence
of Negroes as sharecroppers, between harvests, on supplies extended by the planters and later
by crossroads and village stores. For a time, 1n many areas, virtually no money was exchanged.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

improvement of the economic situation had brought a return of
optimism. Overall expenditures for consumer durable goods and
the volume of installment credit extended to consumers rose more
during these 3 years than disposable personal income. But average spending for furniture and furnishings by the families of
employed workers studied in 1934- 36 was not significantly different
(in dollars of equivalent purchasing power) from that shown in
the 1917- 19 survey.
The proportion of the families buying all kinds of furniture
except that for the living room was smaller in 1934-36 than in
1917- 19. The same thing was true of most types of housefurnishings and equipment, insofar as the lists of commodities used in the
two studies permit comparison. There were, however, some
interesting exceptions to this rule. The proportion buying linoleum (inlaid or felt base) was very close to that at the end of
World War I, but only 15 percent bought carpets, compared with
24 percent in the earlier period. The proportions of the 1934- 36
group buying vacuum cleaners and carpet sweepers and refrigerators and iceboxes were larger than for the 1917- 19 group.
Families buying washing machines were 6 percent of the 1934- 36
group, as compared with 3 percent in 1917-19. And, although
about the same proportion of families bought irons, they had
switched from flatiron s to electric irons.
On the other hand, in the relatively favored group surveyed in
the mid-1930's, the proportion of families sending their laundry
out at any time during the year was about 32 percent-somewhat
Jess than half the proportion r eported at the end of World War I.
The proportion buying washboards and washtubs was also much
lower. This latter change may have been affected by the increasing number of dwellings with built-in laundry tubs, and it was
undoubtedly influenced by the appearance of the automatic washing machines on the market for those who could afford them.

Pres umably, workers' fam ilies were able to increase their purchases of furniture and equipment in the later years of the 1930's
as the proportion of the unemployed declined. During World War
II, howev er, prices of durable consumer goods rose sharply, and
output of many types of consumer durable goods was halted.
By the end of World War II, the pent-up demand for furniture
and equipment was very large. Wartime savings available for
such purchases were larger than had been expected, but considerable use was also made of installment credit. Consumer optimism
persisted even throughout the "inventory recession" of 1949- 50,
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Chart 5

By Urban Wage -Earner and Clerical -Worker Families 1
Selected Year s, 1917 -19 , 1934-36, and 1950
11911-19 1
Pe rcent o f
To tal Expend itures for Current Consump tion

In co me Level







$ 900



$1 ,200




$1,s oo




$ I ,BOO





$2) 00








11934-36 1




$ 6 00



$ 900



$ 900






$1 ,500







$ 2,100


AND UNDER $2,400















UNDER $1,000









$ 4,QQQ


















Famllt es of 2 or More Persons .

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis







when unemploymen t at one time rose to as much as 7.6 percent of
the labor force. The confidence of most workers was supported
not only by the general economic outlook but also by the knowledge
that unemploymen t insurance would cushion the impact on their
family finances if they should lose their jobs. Moreover, unemployment began to decline in March 1950, and after the outbreak of fighti ng in Korea many consumers feared that t h e shortages of consumer goods wh ich occurred during World War II
would be repeated.
Workers' expenditures for furniture, housefurnishi ngs, and
equipment in 1950 were slightly above the postwar trend, despite
some enforced economies among workers who were unemployed
early in the year. Average expenditures for housefurnishi ngs
and equipment were, in dollars of equivalent purchasing power,
more than 2½ times higher than those of the 1917- 19 group and
about 2% times the amounts spent by the 1934- 36 group. Such
expenditures had risen far more than average incomes and thus
constituted a substantially larger percentage of total expenditures.
In combination with the costs of household operation (cleaning
supplies, water, telephone, laundry, etc.), they accounted for 11
percent of family spending in 1950, compared with about 7 and 8
percent, respectively, in 1917- 19 and 1934- 36. But even in 1950,
expenditures for furniture, housefurnishi ngs, and household operation rose with family income, although not as rapidly as in the
earlier years, indicating that workers had not fully achieved their
standards for such items. (See chart 5, p. 94.)
With respect to purchases, the most important differences between 1950 and the earlier periods were concentrated in specific
types of goods rather than spread evenly among all types. Mechanical refrigerators, mechanical washing machines (automatic
and nonautomatic ), vacuum cleaners, and electric toasters and
irons were bought in strikingly larger proportions. Purchases of
linoleum were also much higher. In addition, sizable numbers
of the 1950 families purchased such mechanical equipment as
deep-freeze units, automatic ironers and mangles, and mechanical
clothes dryers-equip ment that had been bought by workers'
families in the middle 1930's rarely if at all.
The 1950 purchase rates for furniture are not strictly comparable with those shown by the earlier surveys, because of
changes in furniture styles and in the type of information obtained
in the surveys. Where they can be compared, however, they are
almost universally higher than in 1934- 36.
In contrast to these changes in spending for household equipment and furnishings, family spending patterns for household
service had not changed dramatically by 1950. As during World
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


War I, the largest number of families reporting expenditu res for
maids' wages and tips in 1950 lived in the South, and their average expenditu res were, generally speaking, significantly higher
than in other parts of the country. Somewha t more than onefifth of southern families in the $3,000-$5,000 income bracket
reported expenditu res for maids' wages and tips. Only about
one-tenth of the families in this income bracket in the North had
such expenditu res, and the proportio n was slightly lower in the
West. Similarly , about one-third of the workers' families in 1950
used commerci al laundry or diaper service, compared with 32
percent sending laundry out in the mid-thirt ies.
Telephone expenses were reported in 1950 by nearly 3 out of 4
urban families, compared with 28 percent of the families in the
1917- 19 survey who had telephone s and 36 percent of the 1934-36
families reporting telephone expenditu res.

Perhaps the most revealing 1950 data relate to the ownershi p
of certain kinds of furniture and household equipmen t, shown in
table 10. Data on ownershi p of pieces of furniture other than
those listed in the table were not obtained in 1950. Therefore , the
figures understat e furniture ownership to the extent that workers
bought other kinds, primarily couches and davenpor ts.
The table shows data for skilled wage earners, because they
are the largest occupatio nal group among city wage and clerical
workers. They are not, however, completely typical of all such
workers in the ownershi p of durable goods. In the case of living
room and bedroom suites, for example, ownershi p was reported
by nearly four-fifth s of the skilled workers, compared with about
three-fift hs of the unskilled workers and approxim ately seventenths of the clerical, sales, and semiskilled workers. And, although the highest proportio n of each occupatio nal group owning
such furniture was generally found in the North, regional differences were larger among unskilled wage earners.
Differences among occupatio nal groups in the ownershi p of
laborsavi ng devices may be illustrate d by data on washing
machines for skilled and unskilled workers. The highest proportion of ownershi p among skilled workers was found in suburbs
in the West (87 percent) and among unskilled workers in small
cities in the North (73 percent). For both skilled and unskilled,
ownership was lowest in small cities in the South, but the proportion of skilled workers in such cities owning a washing
machine was double that of unskilled -62 percent compared
with 30.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


10.- Percent of .~killed wage earners owning homes and selected items of
furni ture and household equipment, by region and type of city, 1950

R egion and type
of city

Was hing machines
Vacuum cleaners
Meehan• Home Cooking
Auto• No n a u to•
Upright Tank
era tor

------------ - --------

Large cities ___
Su burbs . .....
Small cities . ..
Sou th:
L arge cit ies. __
Suburbs ... . .•
Small cities._.
W est:
L arge cit ies . __
Suburbs .... ••
Small cities . __























Upholstered W ool ru gs
a n d carpets
cha irs


89 ---- ----






I roning
mach ines room suites room su ites

Large cities . ..
Su burbs ..... .
Small cities . ..
L arge cities . ..
Suburbs ..... .
Small cities ...
W est:
Large cities ...
Su bur bs .. . ...
Small cities . . .




















81 ,










SouacE: Study of Consumer Ex penditures, I n comes and Savings : Statistical Tables, U rban U. S.1950, Volume XVII, Ownership of Consumer Durables (University of P ennsylvan ia, 1957) , pp. 42, 74, 106,
133, 170.

The ownership figures shown in the table are therefore somewhat higher than they would be if they covered the wage and
clerical worker group as a whole. On the other hand, they understate the extent to which certain kinds of equipment are part
of the skilled worker's home, because they do not indicate the
substantial proportion of rental dwellings which are equipped
with such facilities as mechanical refrigerators and cooking stoves.
Surveys of tenant-occupied dwelling units in 75 cities by the
Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1950 and 1952 showed the following
ranges in the percent of units having various facilities included
in the rent:
Refrigerator: 3.0 in Scranton, Pa., to 72.0 in Miami, Fla.
Cookstove: 6.2 in Ravenna, Ohio, to 93.1 in Providence, R. I.
Furniture: 2.7 in the northeastern New Jersey metropolitan
area to 67.4 in Miami, Fla.
Therefore, it is difficult to judge the overall extent to which
rented dwellings had such equipment, so as to derive an accurate
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


measure of the number of workers' homes having certain kinds of
equipment and furniture.

The ownership data for skilled workers nevertheless indicate
that workers' homes today are better furnished and have household equipment which makes it easier to keep them neat and
clean and comfortable than they were at the turn of the century.
It is evident that mechanical and electrical energy has replaced
a good part of the human energy used in keeping house. It has
increased the output per hour of the homemaker to such an extent
t hat houses are better kept in a much shorter time than at the
beginning of the century. Over two-thirds of the skilled workers
in most areas had vacuum cleaners in 1950, for example, whereas
· in 1900 the broom and the brush were virtually the only implements used for comparable cleaning jobs. And, although the
furniture and f urnishings in the homes of workers in the lowest
income classes undoubtedly are only a little better now than
then, and a small proportion of city workers' homes have neither
electricity nor gas to power mechanical housekeeping equipment,
the proportion of fam ilies living in poverty has dramatically
Since the start of the present century, improvements in the
design of the average worker's dwelling and its furnishings have
also faci litated housekeeping. Larger windows reflect, at least
in part, the increased emphasis on the importance of sunlight
for h ealth and for pleasanter living conditions. Lighter window
curtain materials may be due in part to the same influences,
reinforced by the availability of easy-to-wash synthetic fabrics.
The virtual disappearance of heavy draperies in doorways was a
natural reaction to changes in house design. Simpler patterns
for furn iture and furnishings are also related to these basic
changes and to the general trend toward more informality in daily
life; they also grow out of changes in the technology of furniture
Many articles added lately even to the simpler h ouseholds are
the result of revolutionary technological changes of recent decades.
Some of those items, notably automatic devices and electrical
appliances, were not so long ago unknown to rich and poor alike.
Furniture and the simpler furnishings, in contrast, were from
time out of mind among the elementary requirements of homes;
the transformation of techni ques in making them and the nature
of the resulting modifications are thus basic changes that warrant comment.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

During the first two decades of this century, the furniture
industry widely adopted high-speed, special-purpose machinery
for operations ranging from the sawing of rough lumber to the
finishing of furniture pieces. As a result, small shops expanded
into large-scale units, and the quality of furniture available to
low- and moderate-income families improved.
The increased demand for furniture in turn induced a further
expansion of the industry and the introduction of additional improvements up to the depression of the thirties. During World
War II, when nearly all furniture factories were converted to war
production, the specialized military needs stimulated the devising
of new techniques. Some of the distinctive changes were the
use of laminated and core woods, beautiful as well as strong;
sprayed-on plastic finishes in place of costly hand finishes; use
of manmade fibers in upholstery; resinous glues for permanent
joints in the structural frames; and lightweight metal components
which made the assembly of furniture a more efficient operation.
Other improvements-of a different kind-have stemmed from
the adoption of legislation, in 40 States and the District of Columbia, regulating the manufacture and sale of bedding, and in 24,
legislation concerning upholstered furniture. These laws generally were designed to assure proper labeling of the contents. In
addition, health departments have taken measures to prevent the
sale of bedding and furniture infested with vermin. Because of
such laws, dealing with insect pests is a much less frequent chore
now than in 1900. Moreover, there are more efficient chemicals
to use in eliminating any insects which do penetrate a dwelling.
Chemistry has also eased cleaning chores through the development of new types of cleaning agents. Those available nowadays,
in comparison with their 1900 counterparts, make it possible to
do necessary jobs in less time and they do not wear out the things
to be cleaned, or the homemaker's hands, as fast.


It is even more difficult to generalize about "the job of the
average worker's wife" in 1950 than it was in 1900, because there
is now a wider range of housekeeping situations within the
group and a much greater variety in the available housekeeping
tools. No matter how prosperous the worker in 1900, he could
not have purchased for his wife completely automatic washing
and drying machines, because there were none being produced for
sale at that time. Many of the tasks which were most onerous in
1900 are a thing of the past for the majority of the wives of city
workers. Yet some of these tasks persist in workers' families
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



because their environments are not very different from those
which were typical in 1900.
Summarizing what we know of the jobs which were typical in
1900 which have either disappeared or changed materially will
perhaps clarify what has happened to the homemaking job in the
city worker's family.
• It is no longer the rule to shop daily for the family food because the
majority of workers' homes have mechanical refrigerators, making it possible
for the average worker and his wife to buy food in relatively large quantities
once or twice a week and bring it home in the car.
• The transfer of much food preparation to factories which turn out
million s of cans of ready-to-eat foods, cake and cooky mixes, frozen chicken
pies, pizzas, and so on ad infinitum, and of most clothing sewing to factories
which make all kinds of clothes for all age groups, has greatly shortened the
city homemaker's workday. Mending and some sewing must, of course, still
be done, but a majority of the wives have sewing machines.
• The city homemaker's tasks have been greatly simplified by the great
increase in the number of gas and electric stoves for cooking, and she no
longer need give daily attention to oil lamps.
• The number of city workers' homes without running water and electricity
has dropped to a very small proportion of the total in most communities,
although carrying in pails of water and cleaning a shared toilet are still
burden so me housekeeping tasks in some large city slums.
• Garbage and trash still have to be gotten out of the dwelling, but
:nunicipal collection has greatly improved.
• Among workers' families, very few wives have to empty a pan from
under the icebox these days. Almost all families not owning mechanical
refrigerators app ear to have rented houses or apartments with such equipment. Among the un skilled workers' families, particularly in the South,
however, a significant proportion still use iceboxes or do not have refrigerators of any kind.
• The problem of getting th e family laundry done has changed greatly,
not only because of the use of mechanical washing machines and the wider
availability of laundry serv ice, but also because modern fabric s are easier
to wash.
• Most of the heavy drap es which are seen in pictures of the more
prosperous workers' homes in the early 1900's have been replaced with curtains which can be put into the washing machine and which, in some cases,
can be left to drip dry and be hung without ironing. Th e electric iron
eliminates many ste ps and much of the weight carrying required by what
were so appropriately called "sad iron s" in 1900.
• Cleaning the rugs or carpets is now done with vacuum cleaners in the
majority of city workers' homes in the North and Wes t, although in the
South, where the proportion having woolen rugs and carpets is lower, cons iderably less than half the workers' families have vacuum cleaners.
• Spring and fall houseclea ning has been much s implified by th e new
types of household equipment and of cleaning agents and detergents and
the change to cleaner fuels for heating and cooking.
• Child care has been simplified by the availability of diaper laundry
service, prepared baby foods, cooperative nurseries, improved health and
medical care.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

These and countless other tasks were easier for the housewife
because she had almost certainly received some training for them
in a home economics class at a public school. In addition, most
city newspapers, as well as many magazines, now carry homemaking columns or sections.
The homemaker shares with her husband a shorter workday
than she had at the beginning of the century and the whole family
is able to enjoy a cleaner and more attractive dwelling than that
available to most workers' families in the 190'0's. The extent to
which women over 35 have returned to the labor force is a result
not only of timesaving equipment and more efficiently designed
homes, which free them for work outside the home, but also of
the homemaker's desire to acquire these conveniences. Because
so many married women have paid employment, it is almost impossible to present a typical job description for the city worker's
wife in the 1950's, but one can say without hesitation that the
majority of the workers' wives have lighter workloads and less
monotonous heavy labor than their predecessors in the 1900's.
Many of the women who are returning to the labor force after
their children have reached school age are taking part-time jobs
voluntarily. It must be recognized, however, that even when
their outside jobs do not take a full 8 hours a day, these women
lead complicated lives. Their housekeeping tasks may require
less physical effort than in the 1900's, but their lives have taken
on new aspects. Because of the numerous demands made on the
housewife's time-either holding an outside job or participating
in Community Chest drives, raising money for community organizations, taking part in the Parent-Teachers Association, political,
and other activities-the homemaker of the 1950's must schedule
her own housekeeping tasks more systematically than she did in
the early part of the century, and she must also obtain help from
other members of the family. In addition, she must learn what
to do when her new mechanical equipment gets out of order and
how to judge the value for her particular household of the new
types of consumer goods which are constantly coming onto the
market. On the other hand, she does not have as many calls
on her time for assistance in home nursing for her family, relatives, or neighbors because of the increased hospital facilities
and their use by workers' families, and because of the decreased
incidence of childhood and other contagious diseases. (See chapter VII.) The jobs of most workers' wives in the 1950's are thus
very different from the average wife's job in 1900, but they are
not necessarily simpler or easier.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Cost of L iving and R etai l Prices of Fo od, Eighteenth Annual R eport of the
Commissioner of Labor, 1903 (Washington, Government P rinti ng Office,
1904) , p. 21.
2 Ibid., p. 22.
3 Margaret F. B yington, Homestead, the Ho use holds of a Mill Town (New
York, Ru ssell Sage Foundation, Charities Publication Committee, 1910),
p. 87.
4 Samuel Chotzinoff, A Lost Paradise (New York, Alfred Knopf, 1955), p . 81.
" Ladies' H ome Journal, February 1901, p. 26.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Meals, Men us, and Market Baskets
To satisfy one's hunger is not so expensive as it is
to gratify one's appetite.
- Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics of Labor.

Abundant food has always been a symbol of prosperity, and
food the first objective of economic activity. The prospect of
more and better food was one of the attractions of the United
States for the early settlers. In the improvement of diets-in
quantity, quality, and variety-we can see evidence of benefits
to the descendants of those early immigrants from the opportunities of the new land. It is commonly observed that the
children of each generation seem a little taller, heavier, and generally healthier than their parents. This is attributed in large
part to the continuous improvement in the diet.
In the raising of food standards, the families of urban wage
earn er s have probably gained more since the turn of the century
than have other groups in the population. Their increasing command of purchasing power has served a dual function in providing
for improvement in their diet. They have gained the means of
buying more and better foods. But their mass purchasing power
has also supported the development of low-cost mass production
and marketing of new and better foods, many of them fully
Variety in the Diet

For the workingman near the turn of the century, diets were
usually monotonous. Meats, fruits and vegetables, and milk had
to be produced locally. The customary winter diet in one midwestern city during the 1890's was described in the following
Steak, roast s, macaroni , Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, t urnips,
cole slaw, fri ed apples, and stewed tomatoes, with Indian pudding,
rice, cake, or pie for dessert. This was the winter r epertoire of the
average f amily that was not wealt hy, and we swapped about from
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



one combination to another, using pickles and chow-chow to make the
familiar starchy food re lishing. W e never thought of having fresh
fruit or green vegetables and could not have got them if we had.I

Food eaten by the average worker in the United States today
is more varied and more healthful, and for lower income workers
it is also more bountiful, than it was at the beginning of the
century. Today's family market basket* has a little less food
in terms of calories and considerably fewer carbohydrates than
the 1900 basket, but it contains more proteins, minerals, and
vitamins. This comes from the use of fewer potatoes, breads, and
heavy desserts, and more meat and poultry, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and milk.
In the merging of many ethnic groups, this country has
achieved a widely varied diet. Nearly every nation of the world
has contributed its unique dishes, and in many instances those
once exotic foods have become part of our daily diet, widely available on the shelves of stores. Such items as spaghetti, pizza,
chow mein, enchiladas, kippers, and shishkebab remind us of
our dietary debt to other countries.
The availability of these foods, as well as the indigenous staples
of the American diet, to families in all income ranges, in all seasons
of the year, has been achieved largely by technological developments. The fresh meats, formerly very difficult to obtain during
the summer months, are now readily available at any time through
the use of modern refrigeration. Cities are no longer dependent
on produce from nearby truck farms. Lettuce from the Imperial
Valley of California, tomatoes from Florida, peas and beans from
Ohio, oranges from California, Florida, and Texas, and numerous
other perishable foods flow-and in some cases literally are flownto Boston, New York, Chicago, Seattle, New Orleans, and other
cities during much of the year. These are the benefits of refrigerated high-speed transportation, supported in turn by mass buying power and public recognition of the importance of those foods
in a balanced diet.

Stores and Packages
Another aspect of the technological story of food is the revolution in retailing. That remarkable institution of recent origin,
*The term "market basket" nowadays is rna inl,y a figure of speech that su ggests the tran sformation in marketing ns well as dietary hab its. Earlier, the market basket was actually a
common mode of carrying food s upplies, especiall y peris hables, bought each day in s mall


Today, t he less freq uent m arketing calls for larger quantities and mo re ki nds of food,

often carr ied by automob ile, and much of it storerl in refrigerators or deep freezes. Some items,
notably milk and bakery products, are widely deli ve red to indi vidual hou seholds. Nevertheless,

the term "market basket" survives as a rem inder of "the good old days."

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

the supermarket, has combined in one establishment the once
numerous food specialty stores. Both chains and supermarkets
purchase directly from the food producer, reducing the cost of
distribution through large-scale operations. The chains and
supermarkets have in large measure eliminated one social barrier
which once separated the rich from the workers' fami lies. Americans in all income groups and occupat ions now shop in the same
stor es; t hey are influenced in t heir selection by the same advertising; and, although they have tended to develop similar food
habits, the wide variety of items continuously available on the
shelves allows each customer to satisfy his individual dietary
needs and desires.
Many more foods than formerly are purchased either partially
or completely prepared. Fruits and vegetables are canned or
frozen. Mixes, particularly those for baking, make cooking far
simpler. Even fresh vegetables are more nearly ready to serve;
spinach, for example, is washed, stemmed, and neatly packaged.
Poultry is cleaned and dressed. More and more frequently hams
are being sold ready-cooked. Coffee is already ground and packaged (with the customer's option, however, in many stores, of
grinding it on the premises). In addition, foods ready-prepared
by a variety of establishments, notably frozen-food manufacturers,
delicatessen stores, bakeries, and dairies, make it possible to dine
at home with virtually no cooking.
A recent time and cost study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture of one day's meals for a family of four illustrates the
saving of time in the kitchen through purchase of partially or
completely prepared foods to make up the same menu.
T ype of rn ca l

A.pproxi 111 a Le (·os t llcurs rc q11 ired fo r
at 195<l priC'CS home pre paration

1 lo 111c-11 repa rcd m eals __ ___ __ ___ _
l 'a r tia ll y p repared m eals _____ ___
H cad y-LO-SCf \'C lll Ca)s __ - - - - - - -- - - - -

_ ___________________ __
--- --- - - - - -- - - - - -- - -- - - --- -- - - -


5. 5

5. 80
fi. 70

3. 1

$ 1.

I. ti

To realize many of the fundamental changes which have taken
place in workers' food habits, one has only to contrast the modern
supermarkets with the small and relatively primitive grocery
stores of 1900. At the beginning of t he 20th century, food retailing was carried on largely by the store owner himself in a small
neighborhood store. Staple articles were sold in bulk or in large
quantities. Many articles were sold without weighing-5, 10, or
25 cents' worth judged by eye-and t h e sizes of boxes, packages,
and cans were not standardized. Coffee was roasted or ground
on the premises. Milk, delivered to the store in large cans, was
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


PACKAGING AND FROZEN FOODS- The old-fashioned grocery store has
yielded to supermarket efficiency. Today's shoppers choose personally what
t hey want fro m a tremendously varied stock of p ackaged a n d frozen food s.
To collect their purchases, they are allowed the u se of wire baskets, which
they wh eel out to the family car on the shop's parking lot.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

ladled out to the customer in his own container. Crackers and
cookies were sold from large boxes or barrels. Indeed, many
older people-those who grew up on farms or in small towns
particularly-have nostalgic memories of the cracker barrel; as
a gathering place, it was one of the social symbols of the era.
Customer purchases were made to a great extent on credit. Many
store owners felt that extension of credit assured a steady clientele.
A group of small stores, such as a dry-grocery store, vegetable
store, butcher shop, and bakery, would serve the needs of the
immediate neighborhood. There might also be a dairy. In the
large cities, the majority of the stores were located in tenement
buildings whose street-floor levels were constructed especially for
store purposes. Perhaps the nearest resemblance to a modern
supermarket was found in the large market in which a collection of
small specialty food sellers were housed under a single roof (a form
of retail outlet which still exists today).
A typical grocery store would measure about 18 feet in width
and 31 feet in depth. It was poorly lighted and poorly ventilated,
perhaps with a rear room used either for storage or living quarters.
Store fronts seemed to be used as added storage space rather than
for display purposes. The proprietor had to carry a wastefully
large stock in order to meet the varied demands of his relatively
few customers; with poor storage and refrigeration facilities,
unsold perishables would deteriorate rapidly.
Unsanitary handling of food was common. Even the best
stores had food exposed to dust and flies as well as to indiscriminate handling by customers. In addition to the lack of screening
and covering of food inside the stores, some products like fruits
and vegetables were displayed on the sidewalk outside the store.
In butcher shops, meats were similarly exposed, even side by side
with live poultry. Although there were a few ordinances for
inspection of food establishments and food, principally meats and
milk, enforcement was lax.
Chain grocery stores began to appear early in the century.
Concerning the development of chain stores, it was said in November 1916 that "the chain grocery store is, in fact, almost the first
attempt that has been made to apply the methods of scientific
commerce to the retail business in dry groceries." 2 The early
chains were not more than a series of small neighborhood shops
under common ownership. Through central purchasing, they
were able to buy at lower prices than those paid by the independent stores. In other ways, also, the chains were able to
lower prices. They introduced self-service, no delivery, cash sales,
and large volume at low margins. The independents were forced
to follow suit to survive and prosper. In many cities, the inde-
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


pendents joined together in cooperative arrangements to pool
their adver tising and their purchases from producers and wholesalers and to facilitate the use of improved accounting and sales
The growth of chain grocery stores continued until the 1930's,
when the trend toward one-stop shopping and bigness became
pronounced. Between 1930 and 1950, chains decreased in number
but increased greatly in size of individual outlets and volume of
business, and that fairly recent innovation in the field of food
retailing, the supermarket, experienced its phenomenal development.
Food in America has generally been more varied and abundant
than in other parts of the world. Meat and vegetables in particular were more plentiful. By 1909, food for an average American
workingman's family included approximately 13½ pounds of meat
a week, roughly 50 percent more than for an average workingman's family in England or Wales.
This situation still exists today. In 1955, for example, urban
families in the United Kingdom used only about half as much
meat, poultry, and game as urban families in this country, and
very much less of fruits and green vegetables, but twice the
quantity of potatoes and bread.
At the beginning of the century in the United States, food was
consumed primarily for its fuel value, and bread and meat and
potatoes constituted the basic foods. Much less was known about
nutritional elements than today. Lower income families had to
live on the less expensive energy foods. Higher income groups
could afford variet y in their diet and therefore achieved a more
balanced diet, but with little of rational design.
Since then, diets for workers as well as other groups in the
po.p ulation have been greatly improved and differences between
the diets of the "rich" and "poor" noticeably reduced. In 1918,
when t h e study of nutrition was still in its infancy, it was estimated t hat 15 to 25 percent of children in the United States were
actually undernourished. A large-scale survey of food consumption of city wage-earner fami lies in 1934- 36 indicated that less
than one-fourth of th e families had nutritionally good diets while
one-third had "poor" diets. The greatest improvement in the
nutrition of urban fami lies took place after this period. By the
spring of 1955, according to a nationwide food consumption study,
only about 10 percent of families had nutritionally "poor" diets
by standards used in the earlier period. This stud y showed that
t he average amou nt of food purchased was more than sufficient
to provide nutritionally adequate diets.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Research in Nutrition
At the turn of the century, the beginnings of scientific investigations into the nutritive value of various foods were being made.
W. 0. Atwater, who was in charge of the human nutrition investigations for the Federal Government in 1894, established American
dietary standards using the food consumption data of the families
studied. Further work on nutritional standards was carried forward in the first decade of the 20th century by Russell Henry
Chittenden, Henry C. Sherman, and others. Besides the properties of protein, fats, and carbohydrates on which the standards
were based, the importance of mineral elements in human nutrition was recognized at the time, and early Government bulletins
included reviews of experimental research in this field and computations of amounts of these elements in typical American diets.
It was also in this first decade, in 1906, that Frederick Gowland
Hopkins of Cambridge University announced the existence of some
substance or substances not previously known but essential to
nutrition-later to be known as vitamins.
During this early period, little knowledge of nutrition was made
available to the general public and much of the popular literature
str essed the digestibility of various foods rather than their nutritive value. Often based on untested theory-if not personal
notions-statements such as that meat was difficult to digest and
could be harmful, for example, were taken at face value by many.
The importance of proper mastication and limiting the intake of
food was propounded at great length in a book entitled "Humaniculture," published in 1906. Opinions concerning the ill effects
resulting from eating certain fruits and vegetables were not
uncommon in the literature of the day.
During World War I, the country became aware of the practical
value of scientific knowledge of food and nutrition. Basal metabolism tests were developed partly to settle disputed questions
concerning overeating and undereating. Investigations by the
Office of Home Economics, which had been established in the
Department of Agriculture in 1915, brought drastic changes in
dietary thinking and in cooking methods. The subject of nutrition was introduced into the curriculum of some public schools
as early as 1918.
The war not only gave impetus to the study of nutrition, but it
impelled some conservation expedients which had lasting effects.
Greater consumption of fruits and vegetables resulted from the
wartime campaigns for saving meat, wheat, sugar, and fat, as
well as from the teachings of dietitians.
The economic depression of the 1930's brought a substantial
decline in amount of food eaten, but the more widespread knowl-
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


edge of nutrition probably prevented a proportionate decrease in
nutrient values. Government pamphlets presented plans for
achieving maximum nutrition at minimum cost, for example, and
home economics courses for girls were becoming common.
With the coming of World War II, interest in nutrition was
stimulated again and much was done to educate the consumer
in the advantages of healthful eating and the dangers of obesity.
Many women enrolled in the Red Cross nutrition courses so they
could serve as volunteer dietitians' aides in civilian hospitals.
Food rationing challenged the ingenuity of many housekeepers .
and much material was published on ways to maintain good nutrition despite food shortages. Much of the recent emphasis on
nutrition education in the schools stems from the discovery that
dietary patterns of adolescents are worse than for any other
age group.
According to family living surveys of the Bureau of Labor
Statistics in 1941 and 1950, about 31 percent of city family
expenditures were for food and beverages-just about the same
as for the entire population, urban and rural. The proportion
of food expenditures to the total has declined from 43 percent at
the beginning of the century-an indication of the improvement
in wage earners' levels of living over the last 50 years. (See
chart 6, p. 111.)
Food is essential, but there is a physical limit to a fami ly's
capacity. As the worker's income rises, so do his expenditures
for food. But after he has satisfied his family's food wants,
he begins to buy other things which he could not previously
afford. Therefore, the proportion of both his income and his
expenditures devoted to the purchase of food tends to fall as income
Not only does the decline in the share allocated to food apply
to the average expenditure but also to spending by fam ilies all
along the income scale. In 1901, more than half of total outlays
by workers' fami lies in the lowest income group were for food
and beverages, while those with the highest incomes devoted
only slightly more than 35 percent to food. (See table 3, p. 40.)
In 1950, city workers' families in the two lowest income classes
spent about 35 percent for food; those in the top income group,
about 26 percent (table 6, p. 46). This is particularly remarkable
in view of the fact that food prices by 1950 had risen more since
1901 than prices for all other items commonly bought by city
families. The special significance of these changes is that, in the
lower ranges of income, they indicate a widening of the margin of
earnings for additional spending beyond food.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Chart 6 .

Selected Years , 1901 -50

Expenditures for Current Consumpti on









1917 - 19

1934 - 36



\ Expend11ures by urban wage-earner and c lerica l worker fo m1lies

One aspect of fami ly food habits since 1900, reflected only
indirectly in costs of food purchased, i.e., the decline in home
production of food, deserves some mention. At the beginning
of the century, some workers' fam ilies who lived in large cities
owned livestock and chickens, enabling them to reduce purchases
of milk and eggs and, to some extent, meat and poultry. By 1950,
this practice had virtually disappeared among city workers. Gardens also were much less common in 1950 than in 1900 and were
generally more of a recreational hobby than an economic necessity with workers living in suburban areas. In 1950 and subsequent years, therefore, virtually all food eaten by city wage-earner
families came from retail stores or restaurants.

Eating Out
In 1909 (the earliest date for which such information is available), only 3 percent of the food costs of city workers' families included in a study made in the United States by the British
Board of Trade were for food and beverages purchased and consumed away from home. A relatively small part of this was for
meals at work, since workers usually carried their lunches from
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Carrying meals to work continued to be a common practice
through the 1930's. At the time of the BLS 1917- 19 study, only
about one-third of the families reported the purchase of lunches.
By 1934- 36, considerably more of an urban worker's food bill
was for food away from home and nearly two-thirds of the
average amount spent for eating out was for meals at work.
The majority of workers still carried lunch to work in paper
bags, dinner pails, or lunch boxes.
Since the thirties, the number of eating and drinking places
has grown rapidly. Motor travel brought the "drive-in" restaurant. Decentralization of business to suburbs and the repeal of
prohibition also were factors in the increase in number of eating
and drinking places. Demand for such facilities was reenforced
by rising personal incomes and increasing employment of married
By 1955, nearly one-fifth of the food and beverage expense
of city families was for food away from home. This expense
includes meals in restaurants, cafeterias, drugstores, and in-plant
cafeterias, and between-meal snacks in coffeeshops and candy
stores. By this time, in-plant feeding had become a $3 billion
business, serving about 23 million meals each working day.
The higher the income, the greater is the percent of the food
and beverage budget spent for meals of one sort or another outside the home. This is true today to a less marked degree than
in 1909 or 1917- 19. Whereas in 1909 expenditures for meals away
from home were negligible for the lowest income families, in
1950 even that group reported 15 to 20 percent of total food expenditures for food away from home. Only the small percentage of
families in the highest income brackets spent a much larger share
than this.
Food in the Family Kitchen
Despite the growth of the custom of eating out, about four-fifths
of th e outlay for food by city families continues to be for food
that is prepared in the family kitchen.
The foods commonly grouped under the title "meat, poultry,
and fish" have always constituted the largest major component
in the food budget of the American household. (See table 11,
p. 113.) Early in the century, this component accounted for 34
percent of food expenditures. Changes in dietary thinking, income, and other factors then brought about a decline in its importance. Since the mid-thirties, however, consumption of meat
has increased considerably. In 1955, amounts expended for meat,
poultry, and fish by city families again represented more than
a third of the total expense for food to be eaten at home.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

11.- P ercent distribution of exp endi tnres fo r food consumed at home
urban wage-earner and clerical- worker f amilies, seled ed per focls, 1901 -55



190 l

..-. .-.-.: ___I_O_
..- ..-.--.--10-11-1c-..-.------.•-._A_ll__f_o_o_d_a_t_l_

1\ l cat, poultry, a nd fish __ ___ ___ ____ __ ___

Cereals and baker y p rodu cts ....
J~ggs _______ ___ ----- -- - - --- --


D airy prod uct s .. . ........ .
Butter. . ..... ...... .
Other ... .. . .. .... .
Fa ts a nd oils ... • . .. .. Fru its a nd vegewbles.
Fresh . .• .... . ... ...

I F ebruary
19U9 '

33. 8

' 15. 8
5. 1

15. 5

l 4. 8

17. 5
14. 8

14. 8

Be ,·erages , nonalcoholic ___ .
J\l iscellaneous ....•.. ... ... .. ...

4. g


7. 7
7. 8
2. 7

2. 7
5. 3


29. 0
l8. 5
6. 3

l 6. l
8. 8
i. 1
2. g

Sugar and swee ts. __- -- ---

Spr in g


I. 3

4. 1
5. 3

26. 2
5. 7
l 8. i
5 3
13. 4
3. 2
20. 8
15. 6
5. 2
3. 4


g I Sprin g
I Sprin
1955 •
195 1 '

1--~ l--10:;--:;-

l'rocessed . . ___ - - - - - - . - -


1934- 36


100. 0 1-


27. 3
I l. 4

32. J
12. 2

34. 5

G. 4

4. 7
16. i

4. 0
l6. 6
1. 7
l4. 9

4. 2
14. 8

3. 1
22. 8

2. 4
l4. 3
3. 4
18. 1

9. 4

' 4.0

15. 9
6, 9
2. 8
4. 5

2. 2

2. 7


2. 4
l9. 9
12. 2

8. 7
3. 4

7. 7

G. I


3. 3

4. I

2. 9


1•: xcludes alcoholic b0\·erages.
Families of Bri t b h J escen t lh·ing in nort ht•r n cities.
All urban house kee pin g f,u11ilies and ~in gle person ~.
.\ \I urban housekee ping families.

, Includes " not sp ecified " food , judged to be chiefl y unlisted items of cerea ls a nd ba ker y p rodu c11.

Excludes ''oth er drinks," cons idered to be alcoholic beverages.

1901 - Cost of Liv ing a nd Retai l Prices o f Foou, Eightef'nth An nua l Re port o f t he Co mmissioner ol Labor, 1003. 1909- Cost of Li vlng in American Towns, R eport of the Bri t ish Boa rd of Trad e on th u

Cost o f Living in t he Prinri pal Jndust ri al C ities o f th e Un ited State:s.

J9S4-SG- J\ l uney Disburseme nts

ol 11·age E arners and Clerical Workers, l!J34- 3G, U. S. l\urcau ol L a bor Statistics llulletin 038, a nd Diets
of Famil ies ol E m ployed 11·age E arners a nd Clerical \\"orkers in Ci ties , U.S. llepart ment ol Agricultu re
C ircular 507. 1942- F am il y Spending and Sav ing in Wa rtime, U. S. Bureau of Labor Sta tistics Bulletin
S22, and F amil y Food Co ns uniption iu th e L1nitcd S tates, S pring 19·J:l , U.S . D epartment. o f A griculture

Miscellaneous J'ublication 550. 1951-Fa mil y Income, Expenditures, a nd Savings in 1950, U . S. B ureau of
Labo r Statistics Bulletin 1097 (HeYisecl ) a nd unpublisbed BLS da ta. 1955- Food. Consu m ption of
U ouscbold s ill the United ,Ha tes, Report ,, o. I of llouscbold Food Consumption Sur vey, U. S. Depart
mcn t of Agricul ture.

The changes in meat consumption were at least partly caused
by changes in family spending for dairy products (except butter),
eggs, and fruits and vegetables. These foods became increasingly important in the family food budget from the turn of the
century through the World War II period but since then have
taken a smaller shar e of the food dollar. There have also been
particularly striking declines in expenditures allocated to butter
and to cereal and bakery products. For sugar and sweets, the
proportion of the food dollar spent (though not total quantities
consumed) has decreased noticeably. The reduction for cereals
is partly a result of lower consumption by today's weight-conscious American consumer. Reduced purchases of sugar in the
grocery store are offset by greater consumption away from home
of ice cream, soft drinks, candy bars, and the like, as well as
relatively low prices, and by increased purchases of processed foods
containing sugar. Much the same story is evident in the physical
quantities of food purchased as summarized in table 12, which
shows average weekly consumption of the major groups of food
by city families of three persons.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

I 2 .- Average n11 ,nl,e,- of pouwl~ of food purchased per week for consumpi'ion
at hom t by 11 r ba11 waoe-earner and clerical-worker famili es, estimated for .'J person., ,

'L' ABLt:

selected per iods , J,901- 55


Total pound s of food ___ __ ____ ___ ___

F e bruary
1909 1

1934- 36

1917- 19 2

67. 31


'7 1. 2

1942 3

85. 0

92. 4

S pring
Si. 6

- - - - -- - - - - - Meat, poultry , and fish ___ ______ __ _
Cereal and bakery products__ ______
Eggs____ _________ ___ __ __ ___ __ ____ __
Dairy products __ ____ __ __ ____ _. __.
Butter.__ __ __ ____ _______
Other __ __ _______ __ _____ __ - -Fats and oils ____ ___ ___ ________ --

9. 2
'14. 2
Y. I
7. 9

9. 6
17. 6
1. 6
8. 2
7. 2
I. 1

(' )
Fruits aud vegetables ___ __ _ ··--- -- Fresh ___.-- -- -- -- ---- -- - - -- ---- -- ------ -.
Processed __ --------- -. -- . --- - -- --- -- - -- ---- __-- --- 3. 3
3. 4
Sugar and sweets __ ______ ____ -- - - - .8
Beverages, nonalcoholic __ ------ --- (' )
(' )
Miscellaneous ___ _- - - ___ - - - __ - - - - - · -

6. 6

14. 8
I. 4
13. 4
12. 4
25. 9
24. I
3. 0

7. 7
12. 9
I. 8
14. 4
13 3
27. 7
24. 3
3. 4
3. 8
• l. 3

9. U
I I. 4
2. 9
20. 2
19. I
34. 5
27. 9


9. 6
11. 7
2. 4
23 7

12. (i
9. 8
2. 5
22. 5

2:J. 0

21. Y
1. 8
28. 7

6. 6
2. 6

2. 0
33. 8
25. 5
8. 3
3. 7

I. 8
I. 1

4. I
J. 4




8. 1
3. I
3. 8

2. 8

W eighted averages of all nationality groups.
Since the lflli- 19 survey cxclucl cd 2•person families, in whic h per capita co nsump tion us uall y t•xceeLl s
t hat in larger families, t hese estimates are based 0 11 eo nsum ption of2.6 "eq u ivalent ad ult mules ," CO ITl' SJ)Ond •
ing to an average 3-person famil y in 1934- 36. Consurnption b y adult fem a les was estimated at 90 percl' nt of
that for an adu lt male; that b y children aged 3 or und er, 4-6, 7- 10, and 11- 14 years , at 15, 40, 75, and fl() percent, res pecti vely.
i All urban housekeeping families and single persons.
• All urban bousekeeping families.
•Not available.
• Excludes "other drinks," considered to be a lcoholic beverages.
1 Excludes tea and coffee.
• Includes "not specified" food, judged to b e chiefl y unlisted Items of cereals and bak er y products.


SOURCE: See table 11; 1917- 10 data are from Cost of Living In th e United S tates, U. S. Burea u or Labor
St atisti cs Bulletin 357; s pring 1948, fro m Food Consu mption of Urban F amilies in th e U 11i1 ed S tates, U.S .
Department of Agriculturo Informatio n llulletin 132.

Families at different income levels apportion their household
food expenditures to major food categories a little differently.
Poorer families concentrate on cheaper foods and energy foods,
whereas the more well-to-do usually eat a greater variety, higher
quality foods, and more delicacies. Normally, therefore, relative
expenditures for meat increase a little with income, while those
for cereal products decrease. There are other differences (not
large) in the way the food dollar is divided, but proportionally the
distributions of expenditures do not differ radically for various
income groups.
Absolute quantities consumed vary more with income. In
general, wealthier families eat more of everything. Some individual items are notable exceptions-skim milk, margarine, lard,
corn meal, salt pork, collards and other similar greens, canned
peas, etc. Many of these items are replaced by more expensive
ones bought in greater quantity by higher income families. These
families similarly buy better cuts of meat, and fresh or frozen
fruits and vegetables other than potatoes in preference to canned
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

or dried fruits and vegetables, etc. The higher prices paid by
higher income families can be illustrated by the fo llowing data for
the spring of 1948:
A v1·rag1"\ pri c,, per pound paid forA nnua.l fa mil y inco llll'

\ Tnd e r $ 1,0()() __ _
$1,()1)()--$ ] ,999 ___ _
$2,000- $2,9\J\l ____ $:l,000-$3,999 __ - $4 ,000-$4,\J\)9 ___ _ - $5, 000-$i , 49<J • ... _

A II uwnts,
po ul try , fis h


Por k

$11. 51i
• tiU

$0 . 56
. 61
• 64

$11. GI
. ti8
. Ii\)

_ jj.\

. 64
. 6i
. 69
. i4

. 69
. iO
. 7:5

. ti5

. 82

. (i8

. tilJ
. 7'2

The average costs per pound for other items, such as fresh
vegetables and coffee, are also a little higher for more well-to-do
familie s.
The substantial increase in earnings since 1900, particularly for
lower income fami lies, has tended to lessen differences in food
habits due to income. In 1909, consumption of eggs ranged
from as little as 2 eggs per person per week for the poorest families to over 5 eggs for the highest income families . In 1955,
average consumption per person was higher but it varied much
less between low- and high-income families . Consumption of
meat, poultry, and fish, which in 1909 was around 100 pounds a
year per person for families at the lower end of the income scale
and slightly over 200 pounds at the upper end, by 1955 varied
less-from about 200 to 25{) pounds a year across the income scale.
Impor tance of M eats. Since meat is high priced compared with
other foods, the share of the total food bill that must be allocated to this group of items is of first concern to familie s ( chart 7,

The apportionment of expenditures of city families among the
various kinds of meat, poultry, and fish has changed materially
since 1901, as shown below. (The data used here and in subsequent tabulations in this chapter are from the expenditure surveys
indicated on tables 11 and 12.)
In 1901 , families of wage earners and lower salaried persons
bought a little more than 3 pounds of meat, poultry, and fi sh a
week per person, not counting home production. Of this quantity, about 2 1/~ pounds consisted of beef, pork, or other red meats.
The British Board of Trade survey indicates amounts used in
1909 to have been a little higher. In these early surveys, fresh
beef was the largest item. Only about one-third as much fresh
pork was eaten, and slightly less salt pork than fresh.
471141- 59-
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



- - -- --- -

- -- Pt•rcent Jistrihutio11 of cit y fa mil y l' XJK'IHiitun•:,;







------ -- -

..\ll rnl'tlt~. JH1ul1.rr, and ti. s h __ __ _

.\h~a1 __ _
Ht•t'f .
l'ork .
Otht•r 11wats

l'oultr y


S pring

S pring




------- -- - - - -



Fi :-- h a11d otht•r :-1 •a fooJ _ .

ltXJ. IJ

100. 0


It)() . 0

S4 . 2

Si. <l
43. 0
30. U
14. 3

iY . 7

so. 4
a;1. I

25. 3

:n. -t


5. 7
7. U


l!I. U
12. 0
i . Ii

50. I
25. J
8. H
~. li
7. 2

8. 4

1110. 11

l00. U

27. i

1 I 11dwh's crrnn cd mPats .

The pattern of meat consumption varied among the different
sections of the country, largely because of soil and climatic conditions, but also becau se of preferences of particular nationality
groups concentrated in certain areas. Pork was th e natural product of the South, wh ere hogs could be turned loose to forage for
themselves. Cattle, on the other hand, were harder to raise
because grasses did not grow as well as in other areas. In New
England, feed for hogs was scarce, but grass grew abundantly
for cattle feed. As a r esult, the population of New England ate
mainly beef and mutton, whereas in the South fresh or salt pork
was more important than beef. Similarly, pork and salt meats
were little used in th e West , where livestock could be fed on
abundant grass. Salt beef was rarely consumed except in the
North Atlantic States.
Within these broad geographic regions, there were other differences because of the inherited tastes of inhabitants. Veal, for
example, was more important in the diet of German, Scandinavian ,
South European, and Slavonic groups in 1909 than in that of other
nationality groups studied at the time. As late a s 1934- 36, the
pers istence of French eating habits showed up in greater consumption of veal and fish in New Orleans than in otherwise similar
southern cities.
Consumption of red meats r eached a low point about 1935, after
which an upward trend began, which has continued to the present
time. According to s urveys of the U. S. Department of Agriculture, urban fami lies consumed more than 3 pounds of red meats
a week per person in the spring of 1955-as much as the 1901
cons umption of red meats, poultry, and fish combined.
In addition to r ed meats, about one-fourth of a pound of poultry
per person per week was purchased in 1901. Besides this, a fair
amount of home-produced chickens was consumed. In man y
households, roast chicken was the traditional Sunday dinner.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Chart 7.

Selected Yea rs, 1901 -55




Percent of T ot a l Expe ndit ures f or Foo d on d Beveroges










19 01

19 09


Feb ruary

19 34-36



Spr i ng

19 5 1 3
Sp r i ng

1955 •

Food ond bevero ges,excluding olco h oli c beve rages, b ou ght f o r ho me
c on sump t ion by ur ban wage-earn er an d c l e ri cal-w ork e r families.



Fo r Am er ico n -Bri t i sh ( Nor thern) gr o up of fam ilies .
Fo r urbon housekeeping fam i lies a nd s,n gl e per so n s of all occu pati o ns .
Fo r urban housekeeping fam ili e s o f oll occu pat io n s.


Fresh fish has consistently accounted for 7 or 8 percent of meat,
poultry, and fish expenditures since 1901. Lack of adequate
shipping and storage faci lities in the early years of the century
prevented wide distribution of fi ·h . As a result, consumption was
confin ed to coastal areas and to cities adjacent to the Great Lakes
and large ri vers like the Mississippi. Dry salt fish , smoked or
pickled fi sh , a nd cann ed fi sh were not important items of diet.
Many of these changes in meat consumpt ion patterns stem from
technological a nd marketing developments. Before the introduction of refrigerated railroad cars about 1875-80, all fresh
meat was sla ughtered locally and, in hot weather, needs had to be
s upplied from stocks of "packed" or salted m eats, particularly
pork. Since t hen, meat inspection and grad ing have improved
t he quality of meat supplied t he consumer, a nd cann ing, freezing,
a nd packaging are bringing meats to him in more conv enient for m,
some ready for serving.
The ubiquitous chai n store or supermarket, with long freezer
co unters for precut and packaged meats, as well as many improvements in curin g, canning, and precooking of meat products, has
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


added to the variety and availability of meats for family consumption. Moreover, many improvements have been made in livestock-the "meat type" hog with a minimum of fat, and cattle
yielding better qualities of beef in larger quantities per unit of
feed supplied. Advances in animal feeding, including the use of
antibiotics to stimulate growth, have also increased the supplies
of meats at relatively lower costs.
Large-scale commercial poultry production has grown at a
phenomenal pace in recent years. With its development, in the
early thirties, plentiful supplies of poultry, at low prices, became
available throughout the country. In the early years of the
century, roasting chicken cost as much or more than round steak,
rib roast, pork chops, or leg of lamb. In 1955, however, ready-tocook frying chickens averaged 57 cents a pound, while round steak
was 90 cents; rib roast, 70½ cents; pork chops, 79 cents; and leg of
lamb, 68 cents. Most poultry is now sold "ready to cook," i.e.,
requiring no further cleaning before cooking, and frozen poultry
is also available.
Along with chickens, turkeys have become a regular item of
family menus. They were important only at holiday times in
the early part of the century, but since the introduction of small
turkeys in the late 1940's they are served year-round and they
represent a good portion of total poultry produced .
Fruits and V egetables. As indicated previously, most of the
fruits and vegetables available to the wage-earner families at the
beginning of the century were obtainable only "in season," depending upon weather conditions within the immediate locality of each
city. When home gardens or nearby truck farms were not producing, the family depended largely on potatoes, dried beans and
peas, canned tomatoes and peas, dried fruit, fruit preserves and
jams, and, if it had its own garden, home-canned vegetables to
supplement its meat and cereals. The chief item was potatoes,
consumption of which was close to 4 pounds per person per week.
It was not at all unusual early in the century to serve potatoes
regularly for breakfast as well as at lunch and dinner.
The purchases of an Irish trucker's family in New York City
for a 2-week period in the summer of 1895, selected as typical of
the working group, included the following fruits and vegetables:
Potatoes, onions, beets, dried peas and beans, fresh and canned
tomatoes, strawberries, turnip greens, string beans, and canned
peas-a limited selection by today's standards, which would
include leafy vegetables, yellow vegetables, and fruit juices.
According to estimates of the U. S. Department of Agriculture,
well over half of the vegetables consumed in 1909, excluding
potatoes, were homegrown. By contrast, fruits and vegetables

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

of all kinds are available today in fresh, frozen, canned, or dried
form throughout the year, although the housewife still shops for
seasonal price a dvantages.
The vitamin contents of fruits and green vegetables were still
unknown in 1900. One writer classed lemon and grapefruit as
hyperacid fruits, not to be considered eating fruits, and apples
as a r elish rather than a food. Another claimed that fruits a nd
vegetabl es were mainly valuable for their salts. Not until about
the tim e of the first world war was much publicity given to the
nutritional values of fruits a nd vegetables. Civilians were urged
to develop "victory gardens" and consume more vegetables and
Jess staples such as flour, wheat, butter, a nd sugar, which were
more easily shipped over seas to supply the troops. The search
for th e causes of poor health of men drafted for the military
service intensified study of the importance of vitamins and minerals. Vitamin A (present in large amounts in most leafy green
a nd yellow vegetables) had been reported in 1913. By 1920, the
function of Vitamin C-the most important sources of which a r e
the citrus fruits-in the health of human beings was well understood, although thi s vitamin had not yet been identified ch emically.
Advertisers were quick to capitalize on these discoveries.
Every housewife heard of the importance of vitamins and minerals.
Slogans regarding oranges, raisins, and spinach became part of the
consum er vocabulary .
Extensive use of canned goods by th e military services gave
impetus to the growth of the canning industry. Between 1904
and 1935, the annual volume of canned goods packed rose from
34 ½ million to nearly 200 million cases.
The increasing use of canned and, later, frozen items and the
growing knowledge of nutrition effected a gradual transformation
in th e distribution of fami ly expenditures for different types of
fruits a nd vegetables, as shown in t he following tabulation:


P,•, c c : _ , ~ ~~,~cit;~f~1~v : xpr11ditur: -


Fe hnrnrv

19~-t - :rn

!YOH .

A II fruit s and ,·t'gt'l ahlPs


Fn•s l1 _
Frll il _
\' l'l!l'tahlt •s_



pot atoes _

Ot lu•r
( ':UIIH'd



100. 0

100. IJ

= - = =--

84. 8
22. 9
Ii i. 9

;4 _8

G!). 8

44 . 2

2i. 2
42. (i

JO. 4



8. J

J I. 5
.~. 3
H. 9


21. 2

[1. I
19. 5

4. 2

-t 7

21i. U

J!i. 8

FroZl'll __ _
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

100. 0

100. 0




~ pring

Sprin g

~ prin g


IOU. 0

fH . 2

5 1. 8
22. J

24 . J

2lJ. 5


I. 7

7. h


2<J. I
J. 7
H. I



Frozen fruits and vegetables, a high-priced novelty in the
1930's, were still not of sufficient importance in workers' food bills
to be noted as a separate expenditure item in 1942. However, according to the U.S. Department of Agr iculture, annua l consumption of frozen fruits and vegetables had grown to approximately 2
pounds per capita by the beginning of World War II. By th e
1950's, families in a ll walks of life were using froz en foods as a
ma tter of course.
With the s ubstantial increases in earnings in rece nt years, th e
differences in quantities of fruits and vegetables eaten by different
income groups have dimini shed. Betwee n 1942 and 1948, for
example, consumption of citrus fruit and tomatoes by lowest
income fami lies increased 40 percent, wh ereas that for highest
income fami lies changed little.
As with most foo ds , fruits a nd vegetables are packaged very
differently today from those purchased around 1900. Prepackaging of fresh fruits and vegetab les ga ined rapid ly between 1950 and
1955, and it is estimated that 20 percent of all prod uce is now
bought in that form. Today's packages and cans also t end to be
sma ller to suit the needs of today's smaller fami lies. Most packages of frozen foods serv e at most 3 to 4 persons. Instead of a
25-pound box of prunes, today's market carri es 1- or 2-pound

Grain Prnducts . Modern ideas about diet h a ve been influential
in reducing th e intake of starchy foods, while h igh er incomes of
working people have mad e possible greater use of higher priced
foods like meat s and fre sh fruits and vegetables . As a result,
consumption of cereal products as a whole by city fami lies declined
continuously from 5.9 pounds a week per person in 1909 to 3.3
pounds in the spring of 1955. This occurred despite th e fact
that price increases for flour a nd bread in this half century have
not been as large as for other foods. In 1901, 5 pounds of flo ur
rnugh ly equaled in price 1 pound of round steak, for example, b ut
in 1951, although the price of flo ur was about 4 times as much ,
it cos t only half as much as round steak.
As regards grain products, a shift from the purchase of flour
and unprepared cereals for hom e cooking to the purchase of bread,
prepared cereals, and other baked goods is apparent from the
tab ul a tion at the top of p. 121.
Early in this century, ma ny housewives baked the fami ly's
bread a nd prepar ed all other grain foo ds from the basic raw
materials, chiefly fl our, oatmeal, and cornmeal. In the expenditure s tud ies ear ly in this century, almost all city fami lies reported
the purchase of fl our, but over one-fifth of the fami lies bought
no bread. Today, homemade bread has become a rare delicacy.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

---------r urchascs per prrso n pr•r wt•ck, in pounds

HJ Li - lY I



Sprin g

:-i pring



J!J4 8


.-\ II cerea l and ba kery prod ucts __ ------------

5. H

.). i

4. 3

3. 8

3. V

3. 3

P rc pan•<l . __ __ _. __ __ ... __ _ - - - - - - - - - - - .. - .. - -

2. :-;

2. 7

2. 8

2. ,J

2. 11

2. 8
2. 5

2. 8

--- --- --- ----- - -------- ---- - ------O th rr ba k ery good .-;, rcady-to-,,at cc.•n•:li s,

I. V

I. 4

and prepa red mixL•s __ -----------······-

3. I
2. I



l : nµn•pared ______ ______ __ ___ _______________ _
Flour - - --------- - --- --- ------------- ---·
t · nprrpa rcd CL'n•a l~ ----------------------

2. 2


. ti


2. U
I. 8

I. !i



. ll




. ·I


1 Pn ;,t•quh·a lPnt ad ult ma le"; for rx planat io n , ~et · l ahlt· 12, footnolt' 'l .

Average quantities of flour bought by city fami lies have decreased
from about 2.5 pounds per person a week in 1901 to about 0.4
po und in th e spring of 1955.
Accompanying the decline in total consumption of grain products, there has been a fairly steady increase in the use of partially
prepared foods-prepared breakfast foods, cake and piecrust
mixes, crackers, cakes, cookies, etc. Ready-to-eat cereals, almost
unknown in 1909, accounted for 7 percent of total expenditures
for cereals and bakery prod ucts in 1955, wh ile prepared mixes
accounted for almost as much. In 1952- 54, about two-thirds of
the total per capita supply of flour was purchased in the form of
processed products, compared with only 20- 25 percent in 1909.
Even flour and bread bought today are not the sani e as they
wer e in 1900. Bread now is baked to exact specifications, car efu lly labeled, a nd wrapped under sanitary co ndition s. Early
methods for refi ning flour r emoved much of th e vitamin and
min er al content. As early as 1923, both vitamins and minerals
were being added to both fl our and bread, and in 1941, specific
standards of enr ichme nt were established. Later, other products,
such as farina, cornmeal, grits, macaroni produ cts, dry breakfast
foods, and rice were enriched with vitamins. From 1943 to 1946,
as part of the wartime conservation of wheat, bread enr ichm ent
was mandatory. Thereafter , man y baker s voluntarily or by State
law continued to enrich bread, and in 1955, an est imated 80 per .
cent of commercial ly baked white bread was enriched. Thi s
development has raised th e average iron, thiamin, r iboflavin, and
n iacin content of diets, despite the red uced consumption of cer eal
Milk ancl Othe1· Dafry Prnclucts. Perh aps the most outstanding
feature of the modern American di et, by comparison with 1900,
is the high per capita consumption of fluid milk. Milk and milk
product s, especially cheese and butter, have fo r centuries been
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


THE STAFF OF LIF E-To meet t he food demands of a rapidly increasin gpopulation, bread must be prepared under mass-production condi t ions.
What today 's bread might have lost in flavor, it gains in uniformity and
sanita r y preparation . Wrapping is c usto mary, and pre-slicing helps t he
hou sewife.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

staples in the diets of many countries, but in no other part of
the modern world h as fluid milk achieved the di etary role it plays
in the average American household. Milk is served in many
schools-either free or at nominal cost-and millions of soldiers
acquired a taste for milk during their military service in World
War II. Whatever the causes, mi lk has increased in popularity.
Army dietitians have had to raise dail y rations of milk to satisfy
the young m en in today's mi litary forces.
In 1901, wage earners' fam ilies purchased about 1 111 quarts of
fluid milk per person per week. Th e quantity purchased was
much higher in all regions outs ide the South, where some families
had a cow. Buttermilk was used to a certai n extent in place of
milk, especia lly in the South in the summ er, when it was difficult
to keep milk sweet for more than a few hours. By abo ut 1935,
each member of city workingmen's families was cons uming nearly
2 quarts of fres h fluid mi lk each week, and by the s pring of 1955,
the amo un t used h ad increased to more than 3 quarts.
Today, the h ousewife has little worry wh ether the milk sh e
buys is safe to drink. Use of glass bottles did not becom e general
until between 1910 and 1915, and not until th e early 1930's was
t h e sale of b ulk milk in stor es officially banned in New York.
Pasteurization of milk, begun in 1886, was practiced main ly by
the large dairies in 1909. By the early 1920's, the greater part
of milk sold in cities was pasteurized, and currently over 95 perce nt of all milk sold is so treated. Homogeni zed milk and mi lk
enriched with Vitamin D were in general use by 1940.
Sweetened cond ensed milk h as decreased in importance in the
family food budget while evaporated milk has increased. In the
early years of th e century, sweetened condensed milk was used
by many work ingmen's fam ili es because it was more economical
than fresh mi lk . In som e areas, it was used as a spr ead in place
of butter and jelly and jam. Evaporated milk began to gain in
importance before World Wai· I , and has co nti nu ed to do so, in
large part because of its use in the preparation of formulas for
babies. An "instant" form of dry sk im mi lk, called "dry nonfat
milk ," whi ch came on the market about 1955 at prices below those
for an equivalent quantity of fluid milk, may soon increase t he
importa nce of po wdered milk.
Important among processed dairy products is ch eese, consumption of which has been on the increase, averaging about 3 pounds
a year per person for urban families in 1901 and 1917- 19, and 16
pounds in 1955. Since th e encl of World War I, processed cheeses
in which many cheddars are combined to prnduce a uniform quality and fl avor, as well as cheese foods and cheese sp r eads, have
been introduced. Prepackaging of natural a nd processed Amer-
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


ican cheese, frequently m slices, m convenient-sized units has
contributed to th e popularity of this food.
Purchased ice cream was not important in the early part of th e
century. In 1918, the average r eported purchase was 11/ b quarts
a year per person. By the spring of 1942, it was up to 5 quarts.
Part of thi s increase reflects the disappearance of homefreezing
by handcranking, once a familiar Sunday activity in American
family life.
As the fo llowing tabu lation shows, the family budget for milk
and milk products is now allocat ed very differently Lhan in 1900,
with much less going for butter. This does not, of course, necessarily indicate that th e consumption of butterfat has declined ;
while city fami lies are eating only half as much butter , they are
eating nearly three times as much milk, cream, ice cr ea m, and
ch eese.
Pl!l'Cent di stribution uf dty fa m ily 1•xpt:• 11tl itu res
S uh g:ro u p

H.10 1

f\ ,hru ary

19:14- ~n


Al l d airy produc, ~ ___ _____ _
Milk , cream, and ice cn·am ______ _____ _
C ll C'f'Sl... _____ - ---------------- -- ---------

Buuer __ _____ ___ _______________________ _

100. 0

100. 0


Sprin g


Spri ng

HH 2

HJ,1 I


100. 0

100. 0

100. 0

-===l== = =l = = = = = = ~ -- 40. 0
5. 0
54. 6



42. 6

63. i

7. 8

8. 0

49. 6

28. 3



9. 0
22. 2

73. 5
12. 2
14. 3

7fi. a

13. I
10. G


Butter, now used sparingly, was used liberally in cooki ng around
1900. Major cause of this change was the introduction of lower
priced oleomargarine, based on animal fats, which attained commer cial importance as ear ly a s the 1890's. Low-income families
quickly accepted oleomargarine wherever it was available. With
t h e heavy demands for animal fat s in World War I, vegetable oils
were -substituted for part or all of the animal fats used, and the
name was cha nged to margarine, the product now found in many
kitchens. By the spring of 1955, city families were purchasing
equal quantities of margarine and butter.

Desse1·ts and Nonalcoho lic Drinks. The dessert as a standa rd
part of the meal h as declined in importance in recent years. Although the elaborate cakes, pies, preserves, and jams which once
invariably accompanied a full meal ar e no longer typical, the consumption of sugar has not declined. In fact, the per capita use
of sugar in all forms by th e population as a whole has increased
by abo ut a third over the last half century. This is explained by
the s ubstantial amount used in processed foods and between-meal
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Nonalcoholic beverages-tea, coffee, and cocoa, and more
recently, soft drinks-account for 4 to 6 percent of food expenses.
(Fruit juices are included with fruits and vegetables in this
chapter. ) Most of the group r eprese nts coffee, "th e national
beverage," consumption of which increased substantially-from
a little less tha n 9 pound s per per son per year in 1901 to over 16
pounds by 1948-according to family expenditure studies. Per
capita coffee cons umption dropped to 12 pounds in 1955, following sha rp price rises beginning in lat e 1949. High coffee prices
brought about some increase in t ea drinking, ordinarily much less
popular than coffee in thi s country.
The price of coffee may also h ave played a small pa r t in the
increasing popularity of soft drinks, just as t ypically American as
the cup of coffee. Not until th e 1934- 36 survey were bottled
soft drinks listed as an item of fa mily food expendit ures. In
1950, the average family spent 25 cents a week for soft drinks for
home consumption and a great deal more for between-meal snacks
a way from home. The indu stry has increased manyfold in this
half century.

To sum up, perhaps th e most significant developments affecting
our national diet in the 20th century have been the rise in personal incomes, th e improvements in methods of processing and
preserving foods, a nd the increase in scientific knowledge regarding the functi ons of various food resources in maintaining the
huma n organis m. The effect s of these developments, along with
the gains in medical care described elsewher e in this volume, are
seen in the physical conditi on of the population. As noted, Americans are becoming larger. The span of life is length ening. Much
still remains to be learn ed about the relation ship of foods to
physical and mental growth and t o various disabilities, but we
have achieved general recognition of the importance of the problems, a nd will conti nu e to find solutions. The gains already
made have contributed materially to th e productivity of the
American wage earner.

1 Robert S. and Helen M. Lynd, Mfrlclleto wn (New York, Harcourt, Brace
a nd Co., 1929), p . 156 (quoted in An American ancl His Food by R ichard
Osborn Cummings, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1940 , p. 72).
2 Theodore H. Price, The Chain Grocery Store, i n Seven Ai·ticles by Theo.
H. P rice (New York, Theodo re H . Price Publishing Corp. (1919?]), p. 45,
reprinted from Th e Outlook , November 22, 1916.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Clothing and Personal Care
As fo1· clothing . . . ve1·haps ice a-re lecl oftene1·
by the love of novelty and a regard for the opinions
of men, in p1·oc111'ing it, than by a true utility.
- H . D . Thoreau.

In the first half of the 20th century, the dress of American
city workers and their families underwent a greater transformation than in any other 50-year period in this Nation's history.
Not only did styles change radically, but there were also improvements in the number, design, and quality of garments owned, and
in the variety of clothing, fabrics, and colors. Improvements in
dress were accompanied by improvements in grooming which went
far toward eliminating differences in appearance between the
Nation's factory workers and their families and other eco nomic
groups. The transformation grew out of interrelated social, industrial, and technological changes.
The increase in real incomes wh ich went along with these
developments resulted in greater use of textile materials by lowand moderate-income fami lies than ever before. In 1956, per capita
consumption of textiles among the entire population in the United
States, as measured by weight, was 50 percent higher than in
1900-about 39 pounds compared with 26. Each person was using
about one-sixth more cotton, somewhat less silk and wool, and
less than one-sixth as much lin en fibers. More importantly,
rayon and other synthetics unknown in 1900 constituted over
one-fourth of the total per capita cons umption in 1956, and cotton
accounted for only about two-thirds, compared with over seveneighths in 1900. The trend is even more striking when we consider that a pound of textile fiber today goes much farther in
terms of garments than at the turn of the centu ry.

Manners and dress have become more and more informal in all
economic groups throughout our country. Everywhere there have
been shifts in the direction of wearing simpler and more comfortable clothes and adapting behavior to the situation rather than
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


adhering to traditional ways of doing things. Wage and clerical
workers were affected by these changes in customs at the same
time that a considerable rise in their purchasing power mad e it
possible for them to pay more for clothes and persona l care.
New indus trial techniques brought about very considerable
changes in the production and marketing of textiles and clothing.
These in t urn affected designing and styling. In the clothing
trad es, the transition to increased machine operation a nd from
h ome to factor y production raised th e supply of clothing available to all classes of consumers and provided better clothing at
prices work ers and their families could afford. Increases in output per man-hour in the production of t extile fibers, notably the
synthetics, and in the garment trades made ossible high er incomes for workers in those industries. In the first decade of th e
century, wage earners in th e garment trades pioneer ed in reaching agreements with employer s for improved working conditions.
They also took the lead in arousing the public to an understanding
of the economic and social implications of in ustrial homework,
until it was regulated or abolish ed by law. The garment workers
also contri buted s ubstantially to developing more equitable methods
of computing pay, regu larizing production and therefore employment, and shortening the workweek. Changes in the garment
trades set precedents for other industries and played an important part in the upward trends in r eal incomes and leis ure for all
workers. Those changes, in turn, affected th e k ind and the variety
of the clothes workers wear.
In 1900, men's and boys' clothing was mostly factory-mad e,
although the wife sometimes made nightshirts and summer underpants for her husband and sons. Shoes were factory-produ ced ,
as they are today, sometim es in small plants, sometimes in large
ones, with machines r ented from th e United Shoe Machinery Corp.
Stockings for women and girls, their heavy wi nter underwear ,
their summer undershirts, the women's corsets, and the girls'
underwaist s were also mass-produced . Their outer clothes were,
for the most part, either made at hom e or in small dressmaking
shops equipped with sewing machines bu t operating on such a small
base that a r eally low-cost division of la bor was impossible.
By 1920, production of clothing for all members of th e worker 's
family had, in large part, been transferred from home a nd shop
to factory. Nevertheless, the demand for yard goods s urvived.
Clothing shortages during World War II and the later upsurge
of the "do-it-yoursel f" vogue may even have brought about a
minor revival of designing a nd sewing in the home.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Textile F ibers
The invention of man-made textile fibers was one of the most
important causes of the revolution in dress. These fibers have
been developed to the point where, either alone or in combination
with natural fibers, they provide a much greater variety of light
and less expe nsive clothing materials within the range of the
workers' buying power. Meanwhile, new finishes have been perfected for use with materials made of traditional fibers which
keep them in shape longer and make them easier to clean.
"Artificial silk," the first commercialized syntheti c fiber, was
marketed as early as 1911, but it was disappointing in use. The
rapid growth of production began in 1921, following a decade of
technological advances, and in the 1920's the industry adopted
and began to popularize the word "rayon" instead of "artificial
silk." Another synthetic, nylon, came onto the market in small
quantities in the late 1930's. During World War II, production
was greatly increased, but output was largely channel ed into th e
making of parachutes and other wartime goods. Since 1945, use
of clothing made exclusively of nylon, particularly women's
hosiery, or of nylon in combination with other fibers, has risen
sharply among city workers and their fami lies as well as other
parts of the population. Meanwhile, other synthetics developed
for special purposes have increased th e variety and types of clothing workers can buy.
With the change in texti le mater ials, there also occurred a
change in the materials used for making shoes. In 1900, the
shoe with a rubber sole was a rarity, and shoes made of textiles
were seldom seen.
Ga rment Prod uction
Technological changes in clothing production had an important
influ ence in changing the apparel of low- and moderate-income
families in the United States in this 50-year period. The first
big step in the modernization of th e garment industry had occurred
with the invention of the sewing machine in 1846. An illustration
of its revolutionary impact on labor is found in the making of
men's overalls, as reported in a study of hand and machine labor
by the U.S. Commissioner of Labor in 1895. The manufacture
manua lly of 12 dozen pairs in 1870 required about 720 work hours,
mostly in sewi ng. The women who made the overalls were paid
$36 a gross, or 5 cents an hour. (Then, 50 cents a day was no
uncommon wage for women.) The making of 12 dozen pairs in
1895 required only 71 hours, or about a tenth of the time in 1870,
the main reduction resulting from the use of mechanically powered
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


sewing machines. The labor cost was about $11, a n average per
hou r of 3 tim es th e hourly pay in 1870. Real earnings increased
even more, as the cost of li ving had declined by nearly one-fifth
during thi s period .
Th e changes in t echnology which occ urred after 1900 had to
do notably with the de ve lopment of a utomatic devices used to
spread out cloth for cutting (a task which was per for med in the
19th centu ry by small boys ), an d th e improvements in high-speed,
electrically driven cut ting devices such as rotary discs or r eciprocating knives which cut layers of cloth up to 9 inches th ick. The
pressing m achin e, which had b2en perfected early in th e century
and introdu ced into garm ent factor ies before 1910, was also important in raising productivity.
More than 200 s pecia li ze d fo rm s of th e powe r -dr iven sewin gma chin e are in u se [in g arm ent facto ri es ] . These ope rate at
s p ee ds ran g ing up t o 4,600 stitch es pe r minute and pe r fo rm s pecialized ta sk s s uch a s the sewin g of butt on s, buttonholes, basting, he ms titc h ing, s piral braiding . . . . A press in g ma chin e al so ha s been
invented. It con s ist s of a bed plate m a de to fi t a particula r ga rm e nt
or pa r t of a garm e nt. Thi s bed is piped for s tea m, a s is a lso th e
head w hi ch the opera tor brings clown a f te r th e garment has been
p laced on th e bed . 1

Since the 1930's the ch ief means of ra is ing average outpu t per
man-hour and lowering costs have been ch anges in the organization of production, th e speciali zation of work, and t he design
of gar ment s. Those changes did not h ave th e drama tic effect s
of the shi ft s from hand to machine methods, bu t continuing
reduction s have been made in the amou nt of work requ ired per
unit of outp ut.


In addi tion to th e t echnological developments affecting all
clothing, importa nt changes in th e styling of wom en's garments
have tend ed to put modish apparel within the reach of the
work er' s wife. One of t h e first sch ools of fas hion and design
was the Need le Trades Hi gh School establi sh ed in New York
City in 1925 by th e New York City Board of Education. Originally established to help overcome a n impending shortage of skilled
workmen in t h e needle trades, thi s h igh school soon proved its
value, a nd labor and management representatives became inter -ested in developing its potentials. In addition, a 2-year junior
college to train talented yo uths in design and management, known
as the Fashi on Institute of Technology, was created in 1944 with
the fi nancial backing of th e Educational Foundation for the
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Apparel Industry (a voluntary organization of labor and management representatives) and the New York City Board of Education. Owners and employers in the apparel industry have
praised the graduates of the institute, many of whom have been
instrum ental in introducing mod ern produ ction techniques into
the plants where they have been employed.
Similar developments occurred in the Midwest in t h e early
1930's. The School of Fine Arts of Washington University in
St. Louis established a program of dress design, and business
and professional groups helped to provide scholarships for students
majoring in dress design and to employ its graduates in the local
garment indu stry.
The result of these and other efforts in th e same direction has
been a diffu sion of knowledge about style among groups in th e
population who had earlier never thought of modish clothing as
being for them. With increased division of labor and improved
technology in t h e industry, style changes which have become
popular in a new seaso n can be transmitted in an incredibly short
time from th e top of the price structure to the bottom.
Another important reason for the appearance of t h e latest styles
in the lower price ranges is that in recent year s some of the large
retailers of mass-produced apparel get by airmail from their own
agents th e designs and specifications of the fashions shown at th e
Paris openings. In this way, simplifi ed and sta ndardized editions
of fashions originated in Paris (and for that matter, New York
and Hollywood) to be sold at three-dig-it dollar fig ures appear at
popular prices in Main Street store windows a few months after
they are first seen in the salons of the couturiers.

The changes in types and styles of clothing, particularly
women's and children's garme nts, have been dramatic. An important reason for the changes has been the increase in the
proportion of hou ses, offices, factori es, and schools which have
central heat. Most workers now use either private automobiles
or well- heated public conveyances, and exposure to outdoor cold is
much less than formerly. Th e tremendou s increase in the
relative number of girls and women with jobs outside the home
has also had much to do with the changes. Women working in
offices and factories and going to and from work in public conveyances found that long skirts were not practical or eve n safe.
Skirts were shortened, cautio usly at first and th en more rapidly,
until 1920. Thereafter, skirt length s varied from time to time,
but they never returned to the ex treme and cumbersome lengths
of the early 1900's. Shorter skirt s brought about changes not
47 1Hl- :-.!J -
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



s tyl es have cha nged dramatically. Today their clothes are of li g hter we ight,
more comfortable, and pe rmi t greate r fr eedo m of move ment. Us ua lly t he
clothes are made of synthetic fib ers, a nd de s igned in b ri g hter colors.

only in the garments worn under the dresses b ut also in shoes
and stockings, with high and heavy shoes and h eavy dark stockings going out of fashion.
In part, the cha nge in the styling of garments is due to increased
informality of living. While new styles for women are more
talked about than th e new styles for men, actually the latter's

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

contributions to the changes in taste which began after World
War I have been quite as decisive as those of women. Men gave
up wearing high, starched collars in favor of lower, soft collars,
and derby hats in favor of soft fe lts or no hat at all. Sports
clothes have become increasingly popular.
Some observers have attributed the cha nge in clothing habits
during the past 3 decades in part to the growth of the new s uburbs,
where most of th e hou seholders ar e within a relatively narrow age
range and relatively youn g. A st udy of 6 such communiti es
where skilled workers and salesmen h ad bought homes a longside
small businessmen in th e $4,000- $7,000 income bracket showed
great informality of dress. Slacks or shorts, we are told. . . aJ"e s tandard wear for both m e n and wom e n at a ll times ,
including tl' ips to th e sh oppin g ce ntel'. V is it ing gran dp are nts inval'iab ly are shocked and w hi s per: "W hy , nobod y dresses a roun d
he!'e !" Ch ildJ"en, r egardl ess of sex, wear dungal'ee s Ol' shorts and
a cotton T-shirt unti l puberty. One moth er ex p!'essed the att itud e
of mo st: "K id s don't weal' a nyth in1s you both e l' with. It cuts down
the time needed for dressin g , was hin g , a nd il'onin g. ""

Yet work er s and th eir fa mili es own a g r eater variety of clothing. This is du e in no small part to their shorter work sch edu les
in factories, offices, and stores, and to their ownership of a utomobil es, which make possible th eir participation in a greater number of recreational activities than had been the case in 1900. Most
workingmen nowadays have, in addition to work clothing and
dress clothing, some sports clothing for outdoor recreation. The
same is true, a lthough perhaps to a lesser ext ent, of their wives.
Children's clothing has become simpler and more durable, and
even their dress-up clothes allow greater freedom of movem ent
and informality of behavior than dress-up clothing in 1900.

Since 1900, the average share of the worker's do llar s pent for
clothing ha s declined as real income rose, despite the fact th at th e
1901 study of workers' expenditures by the U. S. Bu rea u of Labor
revealed a definite tendency for clothing expenditures at each
s uccessive income level to t a ke a larger proportion of incom e.
Workers' fam ilies currently, with relatively hig h ea rnin gs, allocate
a smaller share of their total expenditures for clothing than did
those of 1901. The 1950 expenditure s urv ey by th e Bureau of
Labor Statistics showed 11.5 percent of fa mily expenditures on
clothing, compared with 13.0 per cent in the earlier year.
Workers even in the lower ranges of earnings in 1950 generall y
had more r eal buying power above basic necessities, a nd therefore a wider range of free choi ces as con s umers, t han did workers
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

in 1901 in the upper ranges of earnings. The textile and apparel
industries, com pared with some other industries, had undergone
a more thorough mechanization and technological transformation,
with noteworthy reductions of cost. There was a much wider
range of items in 1950 than in 1901 (automobiles, television sets,
s umm er vacations, by way of examples ) to compete for the
worker's dollars; and the competition had been intensified by
the rise of cons um er credit. The choices of wearing apparel were
more varied, but the kinds usually worn were simpler and lighfrr
and likely to be made of less elaborate materials. Perhaps of
minor sig nificance was the fact that work, whether in the home
or on a job outside the home, had become prevailingly less strenuous, with less wear and tear on clothing and shoes.
By the time of the 1950 survey of family expenditures, it was
clear that American workers had found that they could be better
dressed with a smaller relative outlay than co uld their grandparents. They were more apt to use increases in earnings for
buying new automobiles and new kitchen or laundry equipm ent.
Clothing- Expenses of Different Family Members

In the families of industrial wage earners in 1888- 91, clothing
outlays for the wife were almost one-third less than those for the
husband. The
ew York City Committee on the Standard
of Living showed the same relationship in its estimate of
necessary clothing in 1907. By the encl of World War I, as
rising incomes had made possible a more liberal clothing budget,
the relative importance of the wife's clothing outlays had increased; average clothing expenditures for wives were only 11
percent less than those for husbands. Since that time, the
women in the fam il y have had the largest share of the clothing
In 1934- 36, in families of employed workers, women and girls
18 years of age and over spent, on the average, 13 percent more
than men and boys in the same age group (clothing expenditures
were classified by age and sex, but not by marital status). Clothing expenditures for girls in school rose somewhat more as they
grew old er than those for boys and contin ued to rise at an even
sharper pace after age 18 ( table 13, p. 135) . Expenses of both
men and women decreased after they reached their early or middle
twenties, whether they stayed at home or worked as wage or
clerical workers.
The women, however, consistently spent more than men of
t he same age and in the same work status-nearly 11/2 times as
much in some instances. These large differences were probably
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

due in part to the fact that the clothing worn by women in different roles was more sharply differentiated than the clothing worn
by men, as it is today. vVhen men ·w ork around the house or
in the garden, they are apt to wear clothes grown old with factory
or office wear, but women do not ordinarily cook, clean house,
or care for small children in clothes discarded from an office or
factory job. When women take part in social affairs they are
usually expected to "dress for t h e occasion," but t h e man of the
fami ly, as a rule, puts on a clean shirt and makes sure that his
suit is well pressed.
Expenditures of women clerks in 1934- 36 were relatively high
as compared with those of women in other work groups. Women
between 54 and 60 years old who did clerical work usually spent
75 percent more for clothing t han women of the same ages who
were working only as housew ives, and slightly more than women
between 24 and 30 years old who had no jobs outside their h omes.
However, th e older women clerks spent much less than younger
TARL!-; 1:; _~ _,11111. 11a/ cloth iur; fXJH 11dit 11rrs f or 11 1e111 lwrs of f rw1ili f' ., of 1•111ployr,1/,
U'Cl(IC and clnir·a/ work ers,' l1y Cl-(/!' , se.r, ru l([ oa11pa lio11, 1.'J8.', - 8fi
[ E x 1J('11d it un s t·x prr ssl'd as ra ti os o f annua l rx p1 n ditu rP ($5(UiR) of ,na lc \\·agp L arn ers :ind elrri cal wor k1. rs




aged 21 and undN 3f\J

U 1Hk r fl

or at

A t liome

C lrr ical

\ Vagt~

U nd Pr .~

l'a.rn er

or at
sc hool

Ut1dt•r 2 __ _

2 an d u nder tL __ _
ti and under 9 ___ _
9 and un der 12 ___ _
12 ,mt! undrr l fi_ ___
15 a n d t11H kr
18:w d unde r :l l ___ _ _
21 an d un dt'r 24 ____

rtr ri cal

1. 08

. nn

0. 94
1. 05
I 04
1 02

. 92
. 87

. 88

ra n lf'r

Jl. 19

0. 19
. 34


. 4R

. 47

. A3


. !i;j


0 . 74

I. 02

1. tll

. ~o

27 a n d und er 30 ____

. 4fi

1. 14
1. 14
1 13
1. 10

30 an d un der 3f)_ __ _ _
:rn a nd un de r 42 ____
42 and under 48 ___ _



. 4:1

48 a n d un der 54 ___ _ _
54 a n d u nder fiQ___ _
60 an d O \' er_ _

. 37

. 94
. 87
. RO

24 1\11 d 1111 d (· r 2 / ___ _

At ho mt

sr l100\

. 48

. 41

. J;)

. 75

I ll2
I l :l

I . 07


. 81
. 7-~

. 77
1. 01

1 :2R


. fi9

. 78
. fi8
. 58

. f, (l

. 40

1 .1\t\
1. li4
I . Ii~
1 :"1S
1. 48
1. 3;)

I. 18

1. 08
I . fi3
1. no
I 4/ i
l .:1fi
1 2:{
I . 07

. 94
• 84

1. 0:3

. 71i

. 78

. fi 7

1 D at a based on cl oth in g ex pen d itu res of fa mili es of wl1ite Pm ployed wage a nd cleri cal workers i11 42 cit ies.

Sot· ncE: M oney D isbu rsrnwnts or \\' age Ear ners am! C ll'riral \Y o rk ers. rn:H- 36, l · . ~- Hu n•a u of L abor
Statistics ll u lll'tin 638. p. 31i4.

The relationships shown in table 13 , and particularly the relatively low expenditures for both women and men at home without paid jobs, may have been considerabl y affected by attitudes
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


induced by the depress ion. The presence in the population of
large numbers of persons wanting to work but unable to find jobs
frequently mad e those who were employed ver y conservative
about postponable purcha ses for themselves or other fam ily m ember s. Persons at hom e were naturally able more r eadily to get
alon g with old cloth es than wer e those who had j obs.
Clothing outlay s in 1950 for women a nd girls 16 years old and
over in families with incom es from $3,000 to $5,000 were 11 to 41
perce nt above those of men and boys of the same age. The gap
was narrowest in the north ern small cities and in the southern
s uburbs and small cities, and largest in north ern s uburbs, as sh own
in th e following tabulation:
A\"('1'3g(' 1950 clothing l'XJ)Cllrl i111 re

Region and class of city
.\l1 •11 ri nd

As 1wrce nt
A l11olllll


--1- - - - - - - -- L arge cities :
Kort h . ___
South __ __

" ·est. ___ _
Subu rbs :
Xon h ___ _
South __ _
\\-CSL __ _

Sm all ci t irs :
Korth ___
~outh __ _

,,.,·~t - . ..



mp n 's a nd


$ 121





11 :!

11 0
12 1

l '.l4

11 8

~<ll" Hn: : S t 11d ~· of Con :-:11111,•r Expt •ndit lll\'-" · l 1u·oll h.•~ a n d :---a\· in gs: :--1 ,His t it·al Tahk.-; , l "r h a n l . . ~- - JH,;o.

\" ol 11 m C's X I \' :mt!

x:,· ({·ni,•<•rsil y of

l'r nm•~·\y ;mi a , 19!'i7) , pp. 11 4 n ncl I IJ, rPSPL' rt in·I~·.

In t h e light of the 1934- 36 data on clothing expenditures for
women and girls at different ages and in different work status
groups, it seems likely that the r elatively larger average expenditures for women in 1950 were due primarily to the increase in
the proportion of women in the labor force, either employed or
looking for jobs, as indicated on page 141.

More satisfactor y than expenditures as a m easure of th e real
change in workers' cloth ing purchases would be a li st of the
clothing r epresented by th e expenditures r ecorded in the various
family spending s urveys. However, the ki nds of clothing bought
by fa mili es of workers in 1901 were not spelled out in detail in
the U. S. Bureau of Labor's report on the ex penditures of families
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

of wage and clerical workers across the Nation in that year.
Therefore, information presented here on actual clothing purchases for the period before the end of World War I comes from
other, less compreh ensive surveys. The three major later studies
of fami ly outlays by the Bureau of Labor Statistics-1917- 19,
1934- 36, and 1950-do show detail ed data on clothing purchases.
The 1917- 19 survey covered the outlays of wage and clerica l
workers' families in 92 citi es in 42 States and the figures are
more satisfactory than th e earlier data, even though th ey apply
only to white families.* The 1934- 36 study covered employed
worker s in 42 cities who did not receive any relief during th e
year. Since more than half of th e city families headed by wage
and clerical workers in the 91 cities surveyed in 1950 were in th e
$3,000- $5,000 income bracket, data from th is group are used for
the analysis in thi s chapter. The figure s for this group are
probably very close to the average purchases by individuals in
the fami lies of wage and clerical worker s, becau se differ ences in
the kinds of garments worn by person s in families of the same
economic status (but supported by different kind s of work) have
greatly diminished.
Men's Apparel

Expenditure figures for men' s clothing a decade before th e
end of the 19th century are of interest even though they cover
only broad categories of clothing. The following tabulation summarizes annual outlays for the husband's clothing in 1888- 91 in
wage earners' families consisting of husband, wife, and children.
l. 't-' fCt ·n t of
farni lil's
Gari 11 P11t

:\ n·ra gt' ex1w11dil ure

rP p o r t i11 g:

1•xpe rn.liture

l \•r f)l'l' SOll

____________ h u )·in ~__


-- -

l'er fa m ily

I______ _

Coats, ves ts, tro users _


$1.S . 20

$ 14. 41

Overconts ___ _
Boots and shoes ___ _______ __ _______ ___________ ___ __
Hats ___ _____ ___ _____ _ -- --- -------- -------------------------Underclothes
Shir ts ____ ______ ___ __ ____________________________________ _


l5. 81

3. 4H


1;. 29

5. HS


2. r;1



4. fi2
2. 75

3. -18

l\'1isce1laneo us items _

3. 42

TotaL _____ ___ _____ __ _______________ ___ -- -- -------- ---- ---- ---------- --------------

Sou 11 cE: 1't'lson

,r. A ld rieh,

2. 38
$33. 8 1

Heta il Prices and \\' ag,,s, Sen ate' Report 98fi, Part 3 ( Unitt·d States Sc rn.L rt·.

Co mm ittee onl F i □ anrr, 52d Co ng., 1st scss. , Ju ly 19, '1 8!12) .
*The inform at io n obta in e <l fr om N egro fa mil ies w a s p ublis h ed onl y in s umm a r y form b y
majo r categories of ex pen d it ures. (See Mo nthl y La bo r R ev iew, May, Ju ne, and J u ly mm. ) If
t he clot hin g expenditu res o( Negro fa milies ·w ere inc lud ed in t h e 1917- 19 s u m mary, th e averages
would be som ew hat lower , s in ce th e in co mes of the Negro fa mili es w ere lower.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


The most detailed account of city workers' annual cloth ing purchases in the fir st decade of the century appears in a report on
a s urvey of fami ly expenditures of workers in New York City.
The study was und ertaken a t th e request of the ew York Confe r ence of Charities and Correction in order to arrive at a "reliable
representation of the standard of living, first, absolutely, for a
given tim e, place, and class of laborers; seco nd, relatively, in
comparison with th e standard of different times, places, and classes
of men." " No depend ent fa mi lies were included. Atte ntion was
concentrated on fam ilies comprising hu sband, wife, and 2 to 4
children und er 16 years old , with fami ly incomes from $500 to
$1,000 (the eq uivalent of abo ut $1,250 to $2,500 in 1950) . An
annual clothing budget was estimated for a family of 5 "on th e
basis of the averages of expenditures and the details given in
typical schedules."
The clothing needed by the worker h imself in 1907 was estimated on this basis to cost $33, distributed as follows:
2 ha ts Ol' cap s
ove rcoa t*
s ui t --·
pa ir panta loo ns
pa ir overa ll s
3 wo rkin g s hirts ....
2 wh ite s hirts .. .
6 coll a rs

··--- --

$2 .00
··· ·· ·--·· ··
1. 00

4 t ies ------ ----- ---··· ·· ··· · ···
4 h a ndker chi efs · ···- --Summe r underwear .. .....
Win te r un de rw ear .......
6 pa ir hose ......
2 pa ir s hoes .. -- -- . ---- ....... -Rep a ir of s hoes ....
Gloves or m it t e ns ...... ...



• t 'o:--ts $ 10 t- o ~l :]_ last:-; 2 or:~ y ear:-, .
So l 1J(CE :

t1 •P ,



Y u rk C i t,r. 1i107
1110!1), p , .

1.'\",-• w

T he

Sta nd a rd


Li vi n g-


Wo1·k i ng- m e n ·8

F am il ies


Y11rk . 1{ 11:--sP II ~ :11..ri-• F11 1111d n ti1111 . l ' il:trili l':-- J•11h lka t i1111 ( '0 11111ii 1-

The purchase of a new suit with an extra pair of trousers every
year for the worker him elf seems s urpri sing in view of the
restricted list of other garments which h e purchased. Apparently, insofar as these work ers had nightwear, it was made by
their wives; there is no di scussion of hom e sewing in the r eport,
a lthough it is stated t hat a few of the families did some sewing.
The data from the New York City s urvey can hardly be taken
as representative of men workers' clothing expenditures throughout th e country. Th er e is, it is true , a similarity between the
New York City estimate of the cost of clothing n eeded by the
workingman in 1907, and the average expenditures of h usbands
in fami lies of wage earners in 1888- 91. Certain discrepancies,
how ever, limit th e co nclu sions that can be drawn with assurance.
Table 14 show s the number of garments of different types
purchased by men covered in 3 studi es made by the Bureau of
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

J.1. -- AvNa ge n11m/1er of gannr nl.~ 1 p11rchased annually by mni and boy.,
ov1•r 16 years of age infamihes o.f r·ily wa ge ear nns a w l d erirnl workers , /.9/7- / .'),
l 9.'JJ,-36, and I 950 2



narm l' 11t

l!Jl i - 1\J "


--- --- . ---1


______ ___ ----I-f ats a nd ca ps _____ ____ ___ __
Ov?rcoats a nd topcoats __________ _____________ ___ _
R a111coat s

l. (i


-- -- --- -- - - - - -- -- -- --

________ ____



·2 I
( ·' I



, I\

I. I

Suits . .... .. ...... ..... ..... .. ..... ... .

Jackets and sport coats

____ ________ __


Tro usrrs a nd s lacks ____ ____ _. __ . ___ __. __
O\·eralls, d un garees, work trousP rs, ,~tc
Sweaters a nd j Pr sey s _ ----- ---- ---- ----- --- ----- --- _________ _____ - -- -------------- --- ----- -- -Shir ts
Colla rs _....... __ .. . . .. . . . . . . . .. .. . . .. . . . . . .. . . . . . .
........... . ...... . . .
Tics ...... .....
Socks, pai rs

Un~~~'.~f;::;~:,:;~·-···· .··············
U n dershirts



~~~'.~~rr~h'.~f~...:: ::::·:::::::: :::::::::::::: .... ::!
. .... ..... ... ..

·· · · ·

I n 19.10 d o ll ars ____ _____ ____ ___ ____ ___ ______ __ -



. :J


. :s

I. ~


5. Ii

4. I



. !I
~. 2



. I

-1 . 5

4. 9

4. 7

I. 7

l. !i

12. 4

I 1.0
I. I

. :I


3. I


2. ti

3. 4

3. !i



. I




.4 '

AY<'ragr l'X Pl' n diltl r (• ~:

l11 r urrr 11 t doll ars




4. ·I
2. :s
11 . l

------------------ -----------------

0. X

0. 8

I. fl

. I



3. 8
2. i

'.2. X

$ 1~ 1
$ 1~I


$ 127

$ 121

1 Oarnwnt s fnr whif'i1 llll' av Pr i-l.g(• q1rnn t ity is lt'SS t h :1 11 1. 0 wl'n ' n ut, p11rC'h a st'd PH'ry ~-1·nr ; for Px a mpl1 •,
a n a\·crage qu a nt it y oro 2 nwans a purr hasr o nl'r C\"l' ry .'i y('ars.

2 Ree text (p. 1:n) ror difTf'n•n crs in thr groups s tudird in t lw dilfl'r f•111 pl'ri od .-.; ,
3 H rlat1•s l o lm s h a nd s 0111:-•.

, l n<'lud f'S ,pl rso ns I~ yrars a nd orrr.

6 LPsf. than 0 .0,'i.

:--:.nt ' Ht:E: J.Ql7 - 19 - C'o:-l of Li ri 11g in lht> l ' 11i11 •d 81;1! 1·~· . l '. :-:. H11rl'ali of L:1lior :--: 1:1ti.•:ties H11lh •li11 :i!'ii;
t.9.14-.%' - :\ lo tu •~· l)i ~h!ll~t'111(111f s of \\" a).:l' E a n11 •rs a nd Clt•r ical \\'o rk ns . 19~H :~ti, t · . ~- Ht!rt' :.l ll o f Labor
ll' s
::,inti s ti (•s B11llt•ti11 n:-s~: /.9.50 --~t ud y of Co 11s 11m er Exp1•rHl it un •s , l 11eo 11 1t's .1 11 d ~a \· i11 gs: Stat is 1kal Tah
l 'rha n L'.. S . - tu.~O. \ "o l11m (' X\ ".

Labor Statistics : one at the e nd of World War I , one for th e middl e
1930's, a nd one coveri ng 1950.
Although employmen t was at generally high levels in 1917 -19,
the advances in th e earnings of most work er s had hardly more
than kept pace with th e increases in th e cost of living since 1907,
th e year of the ew York su r vey mentioned above. Therefore, it
seems unlikely th at the kinds of clothing they wer e buying were
generally very differ ent from those of 11 years earlier. (The
supply of clothing in the markets was not materially affected by
the war situation in World War I.) Th e r evolu t ion in dress w hich
has occurred durin g the first ha lf of the 20th century had scarcely
started at th e t ime of the 1917- 19 s urvey.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


A comparison of the average number of garments purchased
by t he men in th e 1934- 36 s urvey group with the aver ages for
1917- 19 shows that important ch anges in dress had occurred in
th e 17-year interval. The purchase of separate collars had almost
disappear ed, but thi s had not yet led to an increase in the average
number of shirts men bought. Buying of hats and caps had been
cut by sligh t ly more than one-third. The small drop in purchases
of s uits was offset at least in part by th e buying of jackets a nd
separat e trouser s and slacks. The effect of central h eating was
already reflected in the increased popularity of undershirts a nd
und ershorts as compared with union sui ts , or undershirts and
long und erdrawers.
By 1950, the change to more casual clothing for men was establish ed-th e vest, for exampl e, had all but disappear ed. Men
wage a nd clerical workers bought fewer hats, suits, and ti es in
1950 than h ad the 1934- 36 group, but larger numbers of trou sers ,
slacks, a nd shirts. They continued to buy as many jackets a s
the 1934-36 g roup and bought, in addition , sport coats. The comfort a nd conveni ence of cotton undershirts and shorts appealed to
t he men, who bought almost twice th e number purchased in
1934- 36, and they bought fewer uni on sui ts a nd few er drawers.
P eople now were less exposed to cold and wet weath er a nd had
little need for h eavy underclothin g. Th ese changes m ay also
explain declines in purchases of men's galoshes, boots, a nd gloves,
a nd even house slippers ; th e lighter and more casual styl es of
men's shoes in 1950 co uld pr ovide "slipper comforts ." Since
1917- 19, men have bought sli ghtly fewer overalls a nd dungarees
but more work trou ser s. Purchases of th ese items by the 1934- 36
group were very low, partly beca use und er depression condi tions
eve n employed men "made do" with old clothes, especially for th e
type of work for whi ch overalls wou ld be used.
In 1950, th e average number of garments of different kinds
purchased by men workers was very similar in large and s mall
cities and in s uburbs in all parts of the country. However, th er e
·were some variations which appear to r efl ect either the milder
cl imate or the g r eater informa li ty of li ving in the South and West:
in those region s men bought fewer suits and more separate shirts,
trou ser s, slacks, and overalls than in th e North; on t h e other
hand, th ey bought hats and caps somewhat more often in th e
South. However , th ese distinctive area pattern s did not add up
to consist ent area differences in the total a mounts spent for clothing at given income levels. Apparently the lower expenditures
for h eavy clothi ng in the South and West were more than offset
by purchases of a greater variety of lighter cloth es.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

What th e statistics do not sh ow is the change in the weight
of s uits worn by men. When th e Bureau of Labor Statistics fir st
studi ed the weigh t of wool yard goods used in making suits in
1935, it was found that the most used t ype of winter suiting
weighed 14- 16 ounces per yard of 58-inch fabric, and of summ er
suiting, 11- 13 ounces per yard of 56-inch fabric. At the present time, the material used in th e most commonly purch ased types
of winter suits weighs 12 ½ 13 1/~ ounces per yard of 60-inch fabric
a nd in the s ummer suits, und er 10 ounces. The change in t he
summ er suits reflects Lh e use not only of lighter weight wool, but
also of mixtures of wool with dacron, n ylon, silk, mohair, or rayon.
Women's Clothin g

Cha nges in clothing for women in the first half of the 20th century have been affected by all th e factors which brought abo ut
changes in men's clothing- more noticeably in the case of styling-and, in add ition, by changes in their work statu s. In April
1957, nearly 35 percent of the females in th e population who were
14 years of age and over were either working at jobs outside their
homes or looking for such jobs. Exactly comparable figures for
1900 are not available, but fro m the census fi g ures gathered at t he
time, it would appear that the proportion of women in t h ese age
groups who were in the labor force was not more than 20 percent.
Cha nges in the labor for ce participation of women 35 to 64 years
of age are ver y much more striking; almost 42 percent of them
were working outside the h ome in April 1957, compared with about
14 percent in 1900.
The woman with a job outside her home has clothing needs
quite different from th e woman whose work is child care a nd
keeping house for her family. In addition, th e family in which
the hom emaker has money earnings has a larger money income
than it would otherwise have had, a nd she pres umably has more
t o say about how it is spent. Of course, the family with a working wife must make m oney outlays not necessary wh en the wife
is a full-time hom eworker and cannot make economies which wer e
customary before the wife took a n outside job. Nevertheless, t he
increase in the proportion of earners among married women is
no doubt one of the factors whi ch has brought about the use of
a higher proportion of th e famil y clothing dollar for women's
The style of women's a nd g irls' clothing has been a ltered
more t han t hat of men's a nd boys' over the half century. In 1900,
women who spent most of their time in h eavy physical work at
home or in fac tories wore clothing which was cumber som e a nd
difficult to clean or repair. To be sure, women at home fre-
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


quently wore a "wrapper" while working around t he house. Its
uses were related to those of t oday's "duster," which, h owever,
is more attractively designed. Most women wore full skirts of
fi oor or ankle length, h igh colla r s, and long sleeves, t ight below
the elbow, when they worked outside t he home, as well as on
cer emonial occasions, if one may j udge from s urviving pictures.
The data from t he study of wage earners' average expenditures
in 1888- 91 provide the following condensed picture of annual
clothing expenditures by workers' wives at the end of the 19th
P ercent or
famil ies
Gar 111, •nl

A veragP e xpendi t ure

n•port ing

ex pendi ture

.Pt• r person

Per fam il y

bu y ing
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 1 - - - - - !- - - - l- --



------ ------1


~/,'::::t''.'_~'.'.~':·:::: ::::::::: :: ::::: :::::::: :: ::::: :::: ::: :: ::
n oo ts and s hors __ _____________ _

I l ats _________ ______ __ ___ ___ ________ ___ _

I ~nd r rc lo th es _______ __ ____ ____ _

--- ---- ---- - 1


i\ l


$i. 5H
10. 04
4. i S
3. 72
4. 89
2. 94


$ I. [i7
9. 14
4. u2
2. 49
3. 31
2. 04

iSCt'::::::;11S_:________ .-••••• -.-.-••• --.----- ___ ___ _____ __ /-__-_-__-_-_--;-- - -- :-- - -$23. 17


SotJHt:1<.:: Nelso 11 \ \ ·. A ldrich , op. ci t.

The table of necessary cloth ing expenditures for t h e women
of the family in New York City for the 1907 study ment ioned in
connection with men's clothing again sh ows a striking si milarity
to the 1888- 91 study in t h e dollar total, b ut gives m ore details.
The clothing needed by the woman in a normal fami ly in New
York City in 1907 was estimated to cost $23, detailed as follows:
1 hat --····- .... ·--··-·- .... -.. _·_ .. _.... ... _.. __ $1.5 0
1 cloak * ·· ·· ·----·--·--·-- ·--· 2 dresses of wash goods ·-···-• ....... 2.50
1 wool e n dre ss ····1.50
3 waists -·····-·---·- .. ·······--······
1 petticoat -·-····----·-···-···-····
S u mm er u nderwear ......... .
Sundries, linen, etc . ......... .

Winter underwear .................... . $1.00
6 handker ch iefs ...... ·····-·············
Gloves or mitte ns ...................... .
3 aprons ............ ... .
6 pairs of stockings ................. .
2 pairs of shoes ...................... . 3.00
Repair of sh oes .. ....................... . 1.25

*Cos ts $5, las t s 2 years .
SouHCE: Chapin . op. c it., J). l6(i.

There is in t h e report no clue as to whether t h e cost for the
wife's cloak and dresses was for yard goods she would make up, or
for ready-t o-wear clothes. The report does state, h owever, that
the cloth ing budget as a whole "presupposes, on th e part of the
mother, a high grade of efficiency in mending and remak ing." In
the light of the st yles of the period, it seems likely that the money

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

provided only for a length of dress goods and not for a dress.
The $1.70 included in the estimated budget for "sundries, linen,
etc." also seems very small in view of the fact that it included
such substantial articles as corsets and nightgowns.
The 1917- 19 family expenditure survey shows no great change
in the kinds of clothing bought by workers' wives, with two exceptions. They were beginning to buy silk stockings (32 percent
purchased one or more pairs). And some of them were buying
lightweight girdles rather than heavy corsets.
The study of employed workers' expenditures in 1934~36 reflects
th e types of changes which occurred in women's clothing outlays
between the end of World War I and the mid-1930's. The decade
of the 1920's had been a period of rapid changes in the clothing
habits of women, as drastic changes in styles occurred and technological developments caused a substantial drop in clothing prices.
The 1934- 36 record shows women spending very much more
for silk stockings; on the average, 13 percent of their total clothing outlays in 1934- 36, as compared with 1.5 percent in 1917- 19.
They were spending very much less for hats in the 1930's, and a
much larger proportion of the clothing dollar than earlier went for
silk and/ or rayon dresses. Rayon and cotton gloves were then
competing with leather and wool gloves. Underwear had changed
radically; corset covers had almost entirely disappeared, and only
about one-third as many union suits were purchased. In the
mid-1930's, the most commonly worn underclothing for women
consisted of a girdle, underpants, a brassiere, and a slip, the last
two taking the place of the undershirt, corset cover, and petticoat
worn earlier. To a large extent, rayon had replaced cotton as
the material for women's underwear.
Changes in women's clothing from the mid-1930's to 1950 were
not primarily in the types of garments worn. Women in workers'
families bought more clothes in 1950 because they had higher
incomes, but they followed earlier trends in the choice of wearing
apparel. They bought more suits and sweaters and blouses, more
slips a nd brassieres, many more anklets and socks, and a few more
stockings and shoes, than women had bought in the fam ilies of
workers in 1934-36, as shown in table 15. Hats assumed less
importance as younger women continu ed the wartime habit of
wearing head-scarves or going bareheaded. The number of
gloves purchased dropped slightly, and the number of handkerchiefs bought was cut by more than one-half, presumably because
of the increasing use of paper tissues.
The greatest changes from the mid-1930's were in clothing
materials. New fibers (nylon, dacron, orion, and other synthetic
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


fib ers ) h ad bee n developed, a nd n ew fini sh es m a de clothing of both
the t r aditional a nd th e new sy nth etic fi ber s mu ch easier t o care for .
Th e proportion of t h e woma n' s clothing dollar spen t fo r h osier y
has var ied widely since th e ea rl y years of t h e centu ry. In 1907
it was a bout 21/:! perce nt a nd in 1917- 19 it wa s 4. 7 percent fo r
purch ases averaging 5½ pairs of cotton st ockings a nd slightly
less t h a n 1 pair of silk. F or wom en and girls 18 and over in
employed worker s' fami lies in 1934- 36, it was 13.7 per cent, with
average pu rch ases of 10 pa irs of silk st ockings a nd l ½ pairs of
15.~ Average n umbrr of gar ment s I p urch ased ann ually b11 wom.en and
gi rls over 16 years of age ·i n f C1 milies of ,·ity ,cage £•arners C111d d Priral ll'orkers,
1917-19, 1934.-SfJ, and 1950 2

T A B LI<:



193 l-3f,'

H a ts __ ____
Coats ___ ____ _
Su its ___ __ ___


I. fl


' ;J

0. 9
. :l


Jackets .. ..
Skirts ..... ... . .


Sweaters and jt· 1s1 .\·s __

Blouses . . ____ ___ . .. ..
D ressrs, stree t ___ ___ ___ _
Drrssrs, ho use _ ___ __. _
Apron s . ...... . . ... .
Stock ings, pairs ____
Ankll'ts and socks .

Shoes ..... .. . ...... .
Sli ppers _. ___ ___ ..
P lay clo thes , nil s ports and .-;(•:1.s0 11 s
U nderwear:
Slips . ___ ___ . . . . . ..
Pants . ____ __ ___ _
< lird les and c•<ffSt> I:- _
Brassieres . _____ ___ _
U nion suits and co rnhi na ti o n:-:. _
U nd c rsh in s a nd co rsr t vo\·(•rs






1. 0 !

2, 0

l. i'

I. .)


11. 8 i

Ii. 3


0, 9

. :l



I. 2
2. 3
13. 3



I. 2
'2. 1

12. 4

I. 3
I. s
9. ~


1. fi

2. 4

2. fi



. :l

'2. :3




. :l

I. 9

4. II

2. 2


I. 0


Sou t h - - \h st -

I. 3
I. g

· •1


:L o


I. S

I. 7


I. 0

I. Ii


\ Vra p1w rs an< L ro hc•s ___ __

]{ and hags __ ________ ___
Olon•s ___ ___
l l an dk rrch irfs _ _______ __


1. 8

_:,.;; igh tgo w ns and pajam as_

Rni nw f'a r:
R ain coats ___ _
B oo ts and ~aloshes


1950- large ci I ips




I. I




. I



. :J



.I '



• I


. I
. fi

4. ;3

A , ·rragr 1'x1w nd ii tlrt' :

l n curre n t do llars ___ _
I n 19., 0 do lla rs . .. .. . .

$ 107



$ ! OH


1 U arm c nts for w hich tl w a ,·' quantit y is h·ss th an .I .0 \\'(' rt ' no t pu rd1:1~1•d p\·('r y yPar; for t·xmnpl(' ,
an a. \·1•rage q uanl it y o f 0.2 means a purc hase o nct' rn, ry 5 yrars.
2 ~<'r tex t ( p . J:{i' ) fo r d ifit ·rc ncrs in th e grou ps s tuJi ed in th e d ifkre nt µe ii ods.
J Hc latcs to win •s onl y.
4 Tnc:lud cs wom Pn and )!i ris 18 yrars an d OH'r.

' r,,,,s tha n 0.05.
lJ Pt '!

I iroa ts.

So uncE: Sec I.ab le 14.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

cotton, wool, or rayon hose. For women and girls 16 and over
in 1950 in families with incomes from $3,000 to $5,000, the proportion of t heir clothing dollar spent on nylon stockings ranged
from 7.8 percent in suburbs in the West to 11 percent in large
cities in the North. Their average purchases ranged between 7
a nd 13 pairs of nylon stockings, and 1 to 2 pairs of cotton anklets
and socks.
Clothing for Chil dren

Since 1900, the availability of new textile fibers a nd new finishes, as well as increases in prod ucti vity in garment manufacturing, have affected clothing expenditures for children as well as
for their parents. In addition, the trend toward standard ization
a nd greater simplicity of dress is even more appar ent in t heir
clothing than in that of th eir parents. Little girls, as well as
little boys, now wear T-shirts a nd blue j eans, and the overall and
the su nsuit have become almost a uniform for t he todd ler and
his sli gh tly older brother or s ister.
For t he high school boy, school clothes usually include sport
shirts, sweaters, leath er coats, corduroy and cotto n twill slacks or
jeans, and " loafer" shoes. For th e high school girl, simple
blouses, sweaters and j ackets, woolen and cotto n skirts, socks,
and loafers are t he ru le. These clothes, in standardized designs,
can be factory-made in large quantities; this reduces costs
a nd yet provides garments which a r e comfortable, attractive, and
long-wea ring.
These more effi cient designs for young people's clothing have
not, however, reduced the clothing expenditures for the yo ung
in relation to those of their parents. The New York City budget
for "necessary clothing" compiled on the basis of t he 1907 consumpti on study showed that clothes for a girl aged 10 cost 45
percent as much as her fat her's and th ose for a 4- to 6-year-olcl
boy, 36 percent as much. In 1917- 19, clothing expenditures for
elem entary school boys and girls were 55 percent of their father's .
In 1934- 36, relative expenditures for such children in families of
employed workers had dropped to 5·0 percent, presumably because
of the prevailing sense of economic insecurity.
By 1950, however, the younger members of t he family were
getting a larger share of family clothing outlays. In northern
cities, in th e income brackets fro m $3,000 t o $5,000, clothing
expenditures for boys 6- 15 year s old ranged from 69 to 77 percent
of their fath er's outlays, and for girls, fro m 79 to 87 percent. In
the South and West, relative expenditures were lower; for boys,
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


they ranged from 54 to 65 percent, and for girls, from 65 to 79
percent of their father's outlays.
All the available evidence on the clothing of children of city
wage and clerical workers is that it has improved markedly over
the half century. Lower costs resulting from technological improvements in the production of textiles and of clothing, simpler
and more functional designs, and the higher average incomes of
these families have enabled them to dress their children far more
neatly and attractively in the 1950's than in the first decade of
the century.

In the early 1900's, money expenditures by wage and clerical
workers for personal care were almost entirely limited to payments to the barber and to the grocery or apoth ecary shop for
soap, hair tonic, and occasionally cologne or perfume.
Minimum budgets set up in the first decade of the century
included with "necessary cloth ing" the annual cost of "barbering" for father and the boys and, under s undri es, toilet and laundry
soap. The most usual allowance for each man and boy for barbering was $5.20, which, it would seem, covered haircuts only.
Separate expenses for personal care were first recorded in the
family expenditure survey of 1917- 19. The proportion used for
personal care varied little by income level, being 1.1 percent for
families with incomes under $1,500 per year, and 1.0 percent for
all other fami lies. By 1934- 36, families were allotting from 2.0
to 2.3 percent of their expenditures for personal care, depending
on income. In 1950, the percentages were substantially the same.
( See tables 4, 5, and 6, pp. 42, 44, and 46.)
Technological and price changes have altered the amount a nd
direction of expenditures for personal care items, as for other types
of cons umer goods. Such items as electric razors and devices for
"hairdos" have greatly changed personal care customs. Women's
expenditures for beauty parlor services have usually come to
exceed men's at the barber shop. Women's expenditures for
materials to use in personal care at home have also increased
greatly. The woman who polished her nails at the turn of the
century did so with a buffer and a little rice powder, but not many
women in the families of wage earners and clerical workers
appear to have fitted nail polishing into their weekly schedules.
Today, with more free time and more money, they customarily
give themselves a weekly manicure. In addition, there are materials for skin care and home hairdressing which supplement, or in
some cases replace, services at beauty parlors.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

The better grooming of workers and their fami li es in the 1950's
than early in the century is in no small part a result of the
improvement in the plumbing facilities in their homes. H is
possible to be well-groomed without a basin with running water
and a bathtub or a shower, but difficult; it takes much more time,
planning ahead, and the cooperation of all fami ly members, and
it is hard to fit in after a long workday.
Th e following description of grooming problems in the early
1900's amo ng some recent immigrants in New York City highlights the difficulties caused by overcrowding and inadequate
plumbing facilities in the large city. Such families were in the
minority, but it comes from a man who experienced those conditions and wrote his reminiscences.
Old people had, in general, an acrid smell . . . . Young people and
children m erely smelled unwashed . . . . It was natural, though not
des irable, for ch ildren to have lice in their hair and for grownups to
harbor them in the seams of their clothing and und e rwear . . . .
In the visible world, half of which w e kn ew firsthand , and the ot her
half of which we co uld only imag ine, there w ere, for us, ce rtain
unchangeable phenomena: child ren w ere dirty and were oblig·ed
to scra tch t heir heads; mothers were unkempt and slatternl y . . . .
my mother periodically s ubjected my head and my little sister's lo
whole kettles of water heated to a temperature we were barely able
to endure [and] adopted the preventive measure of doing the fam il y
wash ( in scalding water) as often as twice a week! ·•

As the century has progressed, scientific developments in the
control of insect life have reduced the incidence of these problems.
But in spite of all the improvements in income, in plumbing, in
soaps and detergents, and in hair lotions, personal care and
cleanliness problems persist.* Som e families still live in dwellings
with only a cold water faucet in the kitchen sink or no water at
all, and others share a bath with other occupants. The proportion
has greatly declined, but the actual number remains large. A
l950 survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 22 cities showed
that from 5 to 10 percent of the dwellings had no running water
in 6 cities, only cold water in 5 cities, and a shared bath in 8.
Yet the recent migrants, as those of earlier decades, expect that
they will acquire new skills, earn larger incomes, and have the
means to be as well-groomed and as well-dressed as the workers
with whom they have deliberately chosen to associate themselves.
*Th e very plethora of clea ning agents. lotion s . beauty aids. and eo:-; met ic~. with a s uper•
o f advt'rti sin g clai m s and eoun terdaims. f' reates a pro hlt>m not simplified by
the market ing of some useless and even harmful preparations a nd devices, in spite of th e etforts
of Federal a nd local pure food and drug agenc ies.

abundan <'e

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


E.B. Alderfer and H.E. Michl, Economics of American Industry ( rew
York, McGraw-Hill Book Co ., Inc., 19 42), p. 367.
" Harry Henderson, The Mass-Produced Suburbs: How People Live in
America's Newest T owns ( in H arper's Magazine, November 1953, p. 29).
" Robert C. Chap in, Th e Stanclcircl of Living Among Workingnien's
Families in New York City, 1907 (New York, Ru ssell Sage Foundation,
Charities Publication Comm ittee, 1909), p. 3.
"Samuel Chotz inoff, A Lost Paradis e (New York, Alfred Knopf, 1955),
pp. 59 and 190.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Health Care: Past Gains, New Goals
H ealth is a state of complete physical, mental, and
social well-b eing and not merely the absence of
disease or infirmity.
The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard
of health is one of the fundamental rights of every
human being without distinction of race, religion,
political belief, economic or social condition.
-Constitution of the World Health Organization.

In the United States, the worker and his family have benefited immeasurably from the triumphs of medical science over
disease and the success of public and private agencies in mastering or limiting many of the health hazards which existed at the
beginning of the century. At the same time, workers have contributed substantially to this medical progress through their
determination to improve living conditions and their interest in
health education.


The health outlook of the worker and his family in the United
States in 1900, compared with today, was much less promising.
Many factors contributed to the comparatively poor health prospects of the industrial worker of that day. Knowledge of health
hazards was generally inadequate and the worker was unable, in
many instances, to pay for adequate medical care even if it was
available. Moreover, employers and government were only beginning to recognize their responsibilities in the fields of safety and

Lack of Knowledge
All gro ups in the population suffered from lack of knowledge of
the cause and control of many contagious diseases. The importance of good nutrition had not yet been establish ed and few
families-even those with greater ed ucational opportunities than
those available to the worker-recogn ized the possibilities of
preventive medicine. Municipal control of sanitation was ineffec-
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


tive, and in some cases nonexistent. The public in general was
only beginning to recognize the need for basic legislation in matters affecting public health .
Working Conditions
In addition to th ese general health problems, the industrial
worker was faced by others arising from hazardous working conditions over which he had little control, and for which employers
and government had as yet accepted little responsibility.
Throughout most of th e 19th century, little consideration had
been given to the h ealth hazards that city life and factory work
presented to the worker and his fami ly. Cities wer e founded or
grew from smaller towns with little knowledge or consideration
of the complex health problem s of urban living. Few factories
or other workplaces were built with scientifica lly planned heati ng,
lighting, ventilation, sanitation, and th ere was little protection
from dangerous machinery, noxious chemicals, and other hazards.
This, coupled with the lack of knowledge of how to control conditions even when r ecognized, resulted in a high industrial accident
r ate, cripplin g diseases, and a low life expectancy for workers in
many industri es. Moreover, in some industries, such as steel
in wes t ern Pennsylvania, substantial number s of employees
worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. Such an exhausting work
schedule naturally left these workers an easy prey to di sease and
to accidents.
The effect of such conditi ons on working children was particularly severe. The health of children at work was described in a
s urvey of child labor made by the U.S. Bureau of Labor
early in the century:
Many of the children seen in th e establishments visited appeared
to be undersized, the pinched worn face s, t he th in a rms and puny
bodies of many of them giving evidence that they were underweight.
Among the chil dren reported many were physically unfit for t he labor
requ ired of them. A few who began work before they were 10
years old, though not actually broken down, were at 15 so worn,
t heir energies so far exhausted, t hat advancement in productive
power much beyond t he point already reach ed seemed quite improbable unless a period of com plete rest sho uld intervene. 1

Homework was common in some industries, particularly the
garment trades. In the tenements where thousands of immigrants both lived and worked, conditions were primitive, with
hazards of tuberculosis, diphtheria, scarlet fever, and other communicable diseases. In 1893, one writer, after describing vividly
the sweatshops located in the slums of New York City, stated :
"Clothing made in these sweatshops is scatter ed over the country,
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

carrying germs of diseases to wearers who never dream of the
awfu l conditions under which the goods are made." 2
In pointing up the advantages to the public of the first label
sponsored by a consumers' group to identify goods "made under
clean and healthful conditions," the National Consumers ' League
in 1899 stated that the purchasing public derives from the use
of the label the assurance that goods so endorsed have been found
to be made in clean and wholesome factories free from contagion
and vermin and under the best conditions known in the trade at
that time. Certainly the public needed such assurance.
Housing Conditions
Housing conditions as affecting health in a mill town (as distinguished from the frequently described city slums) ·w ere described in a study made in Homestead, Pa., in 1908, as follows:
The green of the parks modifies th e fir st impression of dreariness
by one of prosperity s uch a s is not infrequent in Ameri can industrial
towns. Turn up a s ide street, howeve r , and you pass uniform frame
houses , closely built and dulled by th e smoke; and below, on th e flat s
behind the mill, are cluttered alleys, unsightly and un sanitary, th e
dwellin g place of th e Slavi c labore r s. Th e trees are dwa rfed and
the foliage withered by th e fum es, th e air is g ray and only fr om th e
top of the hill above the smok e is the sky clear blue.
* * * * *
The glaring evils and startling injustices found on e very hand in
the congested section s of large cities s upplied th e fir st and s tronges t
impetu s toward social r eform in thi s country. But many of the
unwholesome Jiving condition s whi ch we a ssociate with th e poore r
city ne ighborhoods are repeated in th e av e rage mill town with less
excuse and with a s bitter effects.3

Provisions for sanitary water supplies and sewage disposal were
often inadequate. Although nearly all incorporated places of
2,000 or more had public water systems, the water was frequently
not filtered or treated to eliminate contamination. A U. S. Bureau
of Labor survey in 1898 indicated that 45 percent of th e systems
used underground sources of supply and 55 percent used surface
sources. About 2 percent of those using underground sources
filtered the water (in areas using wells, filtration was not always
necessary), while about 19 percent of the surface water sources
were filtered. Chlorination was not introduced until 1908. Even
though the literature of the day emphasized the worst conditions _.
the following description of the water supply of the mill town
mentioned above is interesting:
The water s upply of th e bor oug h is drawn from th e Monong·ah ela
River. This stream is contaminated by th e se wage of many small
towns , a s well a s of two cities , McKees port and Conn ellsville , th e
former with a population of about 40,000 and th e latte r of 10,000.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


In addition, the water, some of which drains from the mines, has
been use<l over and over for the processes of steel and coke man ufacture, and is im pregnated with chemicals, especially sulp huric acid.
One Homestead resident said, "No respectable m icrobe woul d li ve in
it." . . . While these chemicals may destroy the bacteria to a cons iderable extent, they are not in themselves ingredients of good
drinking water. 4

Il lness and Medical Care

At th e beginning of the 20th century, several of the most severe
contagious diseases had been brought under some measure of
control, e.g., smallpox, yellow fever, typhus, and ch olera. Most
of these had taken high death tolls in repeated epidemics in earlier
Contaminated water, unpasteurized milk, lack of screens, and
other unh ygieni c condit ions made typhoid still prevalent, however. Inadequate sanit ation, h eating, ventilation, a nd sunlight
in many of t he homes, with onerous work condit ions and poor
nutrition, made workers' families particularly s usceptible to tube rculosis, influenza, pneumonia, and intestinal disorders, which we1·e
among the leadin g killers of 1900. These conditions also contributed t o the high maternal and infant mortality rates, although
many of these deaths resulted from ignorance of proper care during pregnancy and childbirth.
When the worker or one of his family got sick, the medical
services available were few and comparatively simple. Illnesses
viewed as minor were treated with home remedies and patent
med icines. For severe illnesses the fam ily doctor was called in .
Among families with moderate and lower incomes, even this was
not done witho ut seriou s consideration of the cost involved and
whether the family resources could be stretched to cover the bill,
or the doctor could be asked to wait for his fee. Often, calling the
doctor was delayed until it was too lat e, especially in cases of
childhood diseases. The wife handled the nursing duties with
what h elp she could obtain from relatives and neighbors. When
sh e was ill, the rest of the family and friends did as m uch as they
could, or a practical nurse was called in. In childbirth, midwives
often took the place of both doctor and nurse. The danger s were
recognized and frequently publicized but the practice continued,
particularly among families of recent immigrants and of unskilled
native-born workers.
Hospitalization was quite exceptional among all groups. Aside
from the cost, many hospitals had served as places for isolating
victims of the various plagues of earlier years, and the stigma of
their having been "pest houses" still lingered. To many people,
a hospital was a place you went to die.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Efforts Toward Improvement
The concern of the Federal Government for workers' health was
expressed as early as 1897 by the Commissioner of Labor when he
said that if economic efficiency were to be preserved, there must be
provision against sickness and unemployment. In the 1901 study
of workers' fam ily expenditures, luss of work from illness was reported by over 11 percent of the family heads, with an average
of 7.7 weeks of idleness for this reason. An additional 1 percent
of the family heads were idle from accidents and another 4 percent
from sickness combined with other causes. The social welfare
literature of those years records fully the tragedy caused by illness
and work injuries.
The public was also beginning to be concerned about statements
such as one which appeared in the January 1903 Bulletin of the
Department of Labor:
Every epidemic, be it typhoid, smallpox, scarlet fever, dy se ntery,
cholera, etc., draws its greatest army of victims from [factory workers] . For every dea th that occurs among the richer and higher
classes, there are many in the working class. It is the workmen
engaged in unhealthy factories first of all who fill the hospitals
and their death chambers. . . . To understand the evils which
threaten the industrial classes and to search for their remedy is one
of the pressing needs of the day. 5

Employers in the lumber, mining, oil, and railroad industries
had pioneered in the provision of medical care for employees as
they expanded into new and frequently isolated areas after the
Civil War. Some employers in these industries organized extensive medical staffs and facil ities and a few built hospitals which
are still in operation. At the turn nf the century, progressive
employers in other industries were beginning to recognize the importance of improving the health and living conditions of their
In an exhibit prepared for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition
in 1903 and designed to "demonstrate the nature of our institutions
and their adaptation to the wants of the people," the U. S. Bureau
of Labor cited the provision by some employers of such facilities
as recreational clubs, free medical and health centers, general
educatio nal classes, and instructions in domestic science. The report on the exhibit also commented that "in many factories excellent bathing facilities are now found where formerly no adequate
provision was made and quite generally it is found that greatly
improved sanitary appliances of various kinds have r eplaced the
conditions of a decade ago." In addition, "the furnishing of hot
lunches and even dinners to employees at a nominal price is a
feature of very many establishments." Moreover, "free sick and
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


accident insura nce a re sometimes g iven . . . while the actual
contribution by the employer of the whole or a part of the wages
of the di sabled employee is the practice in some establishm ents.""
However, the major part of the exhibit described th e work done by
16 companies to provide modern sanitary dwellings for their
employees. While th is work was thought to be representative of
efforts to help workers in the improvement of hom e conditions,
the report noted that a thorough canvass at that time failed to
disclose any other companies that were engaged in similar work.
The workers themselves sought to overcome the obstacles encountered in paying for adequate medical care. Low wages,
irregular employment, lack of un employment insurance and oldage annuities and eve n workmen's compensation were some of the
Among immigrants, in particular, as one author observed, "few
households had the resources to take care of their own when illness
struck, or accident; fewer still to extend aid to relatives or neighbors .. .. In illness as in death, the mutual benefit society came
increasingly to be the main reliance of all immigrants." 7
Mutual benefit associations had first appeared in the 1860's and
1870's and spread rapidly to a wide variety of industries and
businesses. Some were initiated, administered, and financed by
the workers, some by employers, and some jointly. Benefit programs were also important in the early days of labor unions, but
in only a few cases did labor unions expand their benefit activities
to provide medical services.

Hospital s

No area of h ealth services has had a more striking development
than the hospital. Not only are there more hospital facilities
available today, but the hospital itself is radically different from
its counterpart of 1900.
The number of hospitals increased 60 percent between 1909 and
1955, from 4,359 to 6,956, but the number of hospital beds increased 280 percent, showing th e trend toward larger hospitals.
Even with the growth in the population, the number of hospital
beds available for all purposes rose from 4.6 to 9.8 per thou sand
population during this period. Furthermore, the average hospital
stay is sh orter today, so more patients can use each bed in the
course of a year.
The hospital of the early 1900's would today hardly be recognizable. It was small and often organized for handling a specific
disease. Its facilities were very limited and its sanitary conditions
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

were often poor. Prejudice existing against hospitals at that time
was not unwarranted.
In contrast, today's hospital provides skilled medical and surgi cal
attention and nursing care. Larger hospitals have organized
separate departments for special activities s uch as diagnosis,
dietetics, physical and occupational therapy, medical records, and
even social service. Hospitals have t ended to become major centers
of health activities not only for th e direct care of patients but also
for medical training and research and for public health ed ucation .
The hospital clinic and dispensary is important as a free or minimum-co ·t source of medical care on an "ambulatory" or "outpatient" basis.
Health Service Personnel

Evidence of the improvement in medical care since 1900 is also
found in the increases in the numbers of health service personnel
and in the improved quali ty a nd scope of their services. Because
of the growing complexity of medical diagnosis and treatment and
the ever-broadening base of health services, many health service
occupations exist today that were unknown at the begi nning of
the century.
The total number of physicians in the United States was about
120,000 in 1900, about 1 physician for every 633 pe1;sons. In 1955,
there was a total of 218,000 physicians, 1 for every 752 persons.
Although the relative number of physicians has become smaller,
the amount and quality of their se rvice hav e increased. With the
advent of the automobile, the phy sician has been able to take care
of many more cases than could his predecessor of the horse and
buggy days. Moreover, the physician today is better trained for
his work, as medical educational requirements have moved upward
with the tide of medical advances. In 1910, not onl y were both
premedical and medical educational requirements in general very
low by today's standards, but many medical schools were lax in
enforci ng minimum requirements. On the other hand, today's
medi cal student, after a minimum of 3 years of premedical college
st udy, must successfully complete an intensive 4-year medical
course plus 1 year's internship in an accredited hospital. Many
also complete postgraduate study. Much of the work formerly
done by physicians is now handled by assistants, technicians, and
Th e 30,000 dentists in 1900 represented 1 dentist to every 2,564
persons; the 75,000 in 1950, 1 to every 1,695 perso ns, and approximately this same ratio held in 1955. The high incidence of dental
defects among men co nsidered for recruitment in World War I was
a stimulus for improving dental services and techniques. The
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis




THE CRISIS-Workers of today are longer lived and healthier than
their grandparents. Much of this improvement is due to scientific advances in such field s a s antibiotics, radiotherapy, and epidemiology. But
it is at the point of the s urgeon's knife that the question of survival becomes
of the most immediate concern to the patient. These are photographs of
operating rooms of 1900 and 1950.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

dentist's service has also been enhanced through the utilization
of dental hygienists and dental laboratories.
The steady and marked increases that took place in the relative
numbers of professional nurses reflect the tremendous growth in
hospital services. In 1900, there were 12,000 nurses in the United
States, or only 1 nurse to 6,250 persons. The nurse-population
ratio increased manyfold in the next 30 years; in 1930, there were
214,000 nurses, 1 to every 571 persons. Further increases brought
the total to 430,000 in 1955, 1 nurse to every 387 persons. The
greatly increased demand for nursing during the first world war
focused attention on the need for better nursing education and
training. Nursing schools today-in contrast to 1900, when only
a few required a high school education for entry, and curriculums
and clinical training were generally poor-have high scholastic
entry requirements and offer well-rounded programs in basic
medical subjects and in actual care of all kinds of diseases.
The changed pattern of the Nation's health force is indicated
by the fact that physicians, dentists, and nurses (including student
nurses) no longer constitute the bulk of health service personnel.
In 1955, they accounted for only about 45 percent of all persons
employed in health service occupations. The greatest increases
in auxiliary health personnel occurred in the years following
World War II. Auxiliary nursing personnel-practical nurses,
nurses' aids, attendants, ward maids, and orderlies-increased in
number from about 182,000 in 1940 to almost 340,000 in 1950.
During this same period, the number of medical laboratory and
X-ray technicians, physical and occupational therapists, medical
and psychiatric social workers, psychologists, dietitians, and nutr itionists rose from 57,000 to 93,000. There also were significant
increases in the numbers of such other auxiliary medical workers
as pharmacists, optometrists, medical record librarians, and public
health educators.
Government Health Assistance

ln the effort to improve health conditions, the U. S. Public
Health Service has played an important part. By 1900, this
agency, established in 1798 to provide hospital care for merchant
seamen / had enlarged its activities, but according to C. E. A.
Winslo,v, a noted sanitarian, sanitation and control of communicable disease still comprised the whole of public health activities.
The Service extended its activities in these areas and took on many
more, including the control of venereal disease during and following World War I. Its current progr am covers many phases of
(': Th is st,r·v ice was fi nancc<l by a 20 -<'en t-a -month f ee deducted f rom sea me n' s wages, probably
th e fh·st prepa id medica l care in thi s coun try.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


health-efforts to control tuberculosis, pneumonia, cancer, and
heart di sease, mental and genera l health services, dental and indu strial hygiene, training professional personnel in public health
and medical sciences, a nd other s.
Much of the governmental activity in the fie ld of health has been
on a cooperative basis. As early as 1917, the Public Health Service
cooperated with the States, furnishing them technical, a dministrative, a nd financial assistance in carrying out local h ealth programs.
(Up to that tim e, larger communities usually had designated some
person or a board as responsible for health, but the extent of the
financial r eso urces, authority, ab ilities, a nd effectiveness varied
widely .) With th e passage of the Sheppard-Towner Act, in 1921,
a cooperative program had been la unched for attacking the maternal and infant mortality problems . Between Jul y 1924 and Jun e
1929, 1,594 permanent local child health a nd prenatal h ealth consultation centers were establish ed. Sever al year s after the expiration of the Sheppard-Towner Act, Federal grants-in-aid to the
States for maternal and child h ealth program s wer e again made
available unde r a provision of the Social Security Act of 1935.
The first large appropria t ions authorized by this statute for
continuation and extension of these grants-in-aid programs
stimulated communities to incr ease the resources available for
thi s purpose. Since World War II, under the Hill-Burton Act of
1946, one of the major cooper ative programs has involved t h e
construction of public and nonprofit hospitals, diagnostic and treatment centers, r ehabilitation centers, and nursing h omes.
Other Federal or State government programs which make provision for per sonal health services includ e hospital and medical
care for veterans, aid to crippled children, vocational rehabi li tation,
public ass istance for needy persons, workmen's compensation, and
temporary disabili ty (or sickness ) insurance.
Total health expenditures und er government programs which
provide either directly or indirectly fo r personal h ealth services
are estimated to h ave risen from $275 million in the year ended
June 30, 1929, to $3 .2 billion in 1956. Th ese expenditures represented about 9 per cent of the total cost of such services in t h e
earlier year and more than 21 percent in 1956.

Voluntary Health Agencies
Invaluable h ealth ser vices have been provided through a wide
variety of nonprofit organizations, most of them su pported in whole
or in part by co ntribution s for r eligious and philanthropic purposes. In 1955, 13 percent of an estimated $5,900 million of such
contributions was donated for health purposes. Additional contributions to welfar e agencies, many of which provide some health

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

services, brought the total for healt h and welfare purposes to
$1,925 mi llion. The share of total contributions allocated to health
agencies had more than doub led since 1940, and the amount was
nearly 11 tim es as much, representing nearly 7 percent of the $11.6
billion spent in 1955 by cons umers for medical ca re (i ncluding
expenditures for hospital construction).
Part of th ese fund s went to nearly 70 health agencies that solicit
fund s nationally, including s uch organizati ons as th e National
Tuberculosis Association, which was founded more t han 50 years
ago, and the American Red Cross. These agencies not only provide
individuals with care a nd ser vices but also support ed ucational
and research programs dealing with many diseases, e.g., cancer,
poliomyeli tis, arthritis, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, and
cerebral palsy.
Churches and private social service agencies, through private
ho pitals and community ce nters, have a lso long been active in
health work. Important so urces of funds fo r these agencies are
the united funds and community chest s in var ious communities1,873 such fund-raising campaigns were carried on in 1955.
A most impressive expansion in the activit ies of local health
agencies has occurred in the case of clinics. In 1900, there were
probably less than 150 clinics in the country, including
those attached to hospitals (out-patient clinics) a nd those
conducted indepencle ntly. By 1931, there were over 50 times
as many (7,727), with an estimated 36 to 45 million visits by
patients. Since patients made an average of 3 to 5 visits per year,
the total number of patients treated may be estimated at 7 to 11
Out-patient clinics attached to hospitals were set up in sections
of the co untry with the greatest industrial development a nd generally in the largest cities. The large influx of immigrants between 1900 and 1914 a nd the consequent increase of low-income
wage earn ers in large cities prompted doctors to take the lead in
developing out-patient clinics.
Independent clinics, primar ily the work of voluntary a nd governm enta l h ealth agencies, were generally establish ed to develop
preventive measures for health education purposes. In addit ion to
the United States Public H ealth Service, volun tary agencies such
as the nati onwide health associations have been active in the
establishm ent of these clinics.

Industrial Medical Services
Numerous industrial concerns provide in-plant medical serv ices
of one kind or another for their employees. The Public Health
Service estimated that in 1947 about 40 percent of th e coun try's
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


industrial workers were employed in concerns offering some health
protection, with the majority of these employed in manufacturing.
A 1948 survey of 333 companies of all sizes in over 30 manufacturing and nonmanufacturing industries (with total employment
of 1.6 million) by the National Industrial Conference Board showed
that medical services provided employees included emergency care
for sickness and injury on th e job, physical examination, diagnostic
and other special services such as health ed ucation, co unseling,
and ind ustrial and mental hygiene programs. Naturally th e scope
of s uch programs varied from company to company; a few illustrations s uggest th e prevalence of the various services. Periodic
physical checkups were either r equired or provided at the employee's request in over half of the companies and about one-fourth
provided X-rays, urinalyses, and blood studies. More than onefourth of the companies made available anti-influenza and cold
vaccines and vitamin tablets.
A n umber of unions have established healt h centers which
provide medical, and in some cases dental, service for members and
their fami lies. Currently, th ere are about 50 s uch centers in the
United States.
More widespread protection has, of co urse, been achieved
through th e health and welfare provisions of collective bargaining
agreements, which currently cover upwards of 12 mi ll ion workers.
As only a minority of these plans are the service type-as di st inguished from in surance or indemnity plans-they ar e discussed
in the section on P aying for Medical Care ( p. 171).

P ure Food and Drugs

Most of the patent medicines which were so widely used in 1900
appear to have been ineffectual but harmless except when substituted for needed professional care. Some were found to be
dangerous, but th eir sale was not effectively controlled. Moreover, adulteration of food, sometimes in an effort to preserve it,
led to health hazards. An important step toward remedying such
conditions was th e passage by the United States Congress of the
1906 Pure Food and Drug Act. The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic
Act of 1938, which superseded the 1906 law, materially strengthened the power of the U. S. Food and Drug Administration to protect the public against contaminated and harmfully adulterated
foods. In the case of drugs, the new law r equired that adequate
directions for use and warnings against mis use and possible deterioration be placed on drug labels. It also r eq uired label declaration of drugs likely to be habit forming and, with qualifications,
listing of ingredients and amounts thereof contained in drugs.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

These requirements are enforced through inspection activities, and
violators are subject to criminal prosecution or injunction actions.

Control of Disease
Early in the 20th century, disease prevention centered on a
group of communicable diseases eventually controlled through sanitation measures. Typhoid, for example, was handled by treating
water supplies, controlling sewage disposal, and pasteurizing milk,
with a consequent reduction in the death rate per 100,000 population from 31.3 in 1900 to 7.6 in 1920. Typhoid caused only 50
deaths in the United States in 1955. Helpful, too, was the war on
insect carriers of disease, even the simple and direct expedient of
screening doors and windows. Complementing these environmental controls, advances in the vaccines have contributed greatly
to the prevention of infectious diseases.
Reductions in infant and maternal death rates were achieved by
a combination of increased birth attendance by physicians, better
hospitals and drugs, and widespread educational programs on
proper care. Maternal deaths per 10,000 live births dropped from
60.8 in 1915, when a system of birth-registration areas was established, to 4. 7 in 1955. Mortality rates for infants under 1 year
declined from 99.9 per 1,000 live births in 1915 to 26.4 in 1955.
Death rates per 100,000 population from diphtheria, measles, and
whooping cough were 40.3, 13.3, and 12.2, respectively, in 1900 and
0.1, 0.2, and 0.3, respectively, in 1955.
In recent years, special emphasis has been directed to the chronic
diseases, including such major problems of the past as diabetes,
pernicious anemia, syph ili s, and malaria. Tuberculosis, congenital
heart disease, and rheumatic fever are among 30 other chronic
diseases that are now being brought under control.
Improved vaccines have been effective in curbing many of the
virus diseases. The fact that several of these diseases, influenza
and poliomyelitis among them, are now in a measure preventable
represents substantial progress in this area.
Among the new therapeutic aids that have greatly increased
the cure rate of a number of diseases are the antibiotic drugs. The
discovery of the sulfa drugs, beginning in 1935, was followed by
the development of penicillin in the early years of World War II.
Experiments with a new source, t he actinomycetes, in the ensui ng
years have added other drugs to the growing list of antibiotics.
These drugs have proved highly efficacious in the treatment of a
great variety of infections-meningitis, pneumonia, whooping
cough, and osteomyelitis, for example.
Heart diseases comprise the leading cause of death in the Nation
today. Concentrated research has been can-ied on in recent years
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


on the h eart diseases of midd le and old age-hypertension and
arteriosclerosis (hard enin g of the arteri es). A great deal of
progress ha s al so been made in the h eart diseases of childhood,
largely as a result of r esear ch regarding rheumatic fever and
congenital h eart di sease, where new surgical tech niqu es have been
Extensive research has been carried on for the past 30 year s in
th e Nation's second cause of death-cancer. The cause is still unkn own, but the r esearch ers have found clues as to where th e solution lies in the stud y of genetics and of viruses a nd h ormones. In
ca nce r, surgery and irrad iation are still the only recognized treatm ent. The cure rate for operabl e cancer is now more t ha n 30
per ce nt.
Th e contributions of med ical research in the control of disease
have been accompanied by mark ed gains in s urgical techniques
in many field s of m edi cine. Much has been done, for example,
through surgery to restore to useful lives persons who would
otherwise have been perman ently di sabled.

Lengthening the Life S pan
What effect ha ve t h ese medical advances had on workers' fa milies and their way of life? Progress in medical knowledge ha s
contributed t o an increase in the average life expectancy fo r white
boy babies from 48.2 year s in 1900 to 67.3 years in 1955; fo r white
girl babies, 51.1 to 73.6 years. For nonwhite infants, the rise in
life expectancy h as been even more striking: for boys, it increased
from 32.5 to 61.2 yea r s, and for girls, from 35.0 to 65.9 years.
Longer life expectancy and improved health have increased the
earning power of the worker, and g iven him assurance that
normally he will li ve to raise and educate his chil dren, that his
wife will not die in child birth , and that his children will survive
childh ood without dangerous illnesses. This k nowledge has contributed to his wi llin gness to ch a nge his spend ing and saving
habits. The emphasis placed on san itation, nutrition, a nd recreation in health education programs h as und oubtedly stimulated
dem a nd for a wide range of consumer goods a nd services from
vitamin capsules to a mod ern hou se in the suburbs.

The costs of m edical ca r e, unlik e most other fam il y expenses,
are largely uncerta in a nd subject to extr eme variations among
families and from t im e to t ime for the same fam ily. In th e early
part of th e ce ntury, work er s' fa mili es experienced g r eat difficulty

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

in meeting medical expenses. Many workers' families were unable
to pay fo r adeq uate m edical care and did not r eceive it. (The ver y
poorest families often 1·eceived free m edical car e, mainly from
charitable so urces.) Fami ly in comes in t h e early 1900's provided
only a small margin beyond requirements for food, h ousing, and
clothing. Since the late 1930's, higher r eal incomes of workers
a nd new methods of paym ent for m edical car e, coupled with greater
ava ila bility and higher quality of many h ealth servic 2s, have made
it possible for workers to obtai n more and better medical care.
How ever, this greatly improved medical care has increased in cost,
parti cularly with r espect to hospi tal ch arges.
The net effect of these cha nges is reveal ed by the changing
pattern of expenditures for medical care report ed by workers'
families in surveys in 1901, 1917-19, 1934- 36, and 1950. Some
idea of th e adequ acy of the medical care received can be gained
by comparing these expendi t ures with estimated cost s of adequate
care as specified in variou s family budget and medical studies.
Medical Care Expenditures

Over the first h alf of thi s ce nt ury, city workers' fa mili es genera lly more than doubl ed the proport ion of t h eir total expenditures
used for m edical care. The 1901 survey of fami ly expenditures
indi cated that th ey the n used, on account of "sickness and death"
(not merely med ical ca r e but fun eral expe nses as well) , a n average
of only 2.7 percent of their total expe ndi t ures. Work er s' fami lies
in 1950 devoted to medi cal car e (not including such items as
fun eral expenses) a n average of 5.1 percent. Th e chan ge has
added meaning because the 1901 fam ili es averaged 4 m ember s, the
1950 group, 3.4. Even m or e signifi cant, families were spending
roughly 4 t imes as much for m ed ical car e in 1950 as in 1900, in
dollars of eq uival en t purchasing power , a nd each dollar bought
better care.

Ty pes of Medical Se1'vices Ol1tainecl. Little is known of how the
1901 expenditures were distribu ted a mong th e various types of
services. It is reasonable to assume that most of th e ex pense was
for services of doctors, dentists, and midwives a nd for medicines,
medical suppli es, and applia nces with relatively little for hospital
care. The reports also in cluded burial expenses.
Table 16 shows how urban work ers' families all ocat ed th eir
m edi cal care expenditures to various goods and ser vices in 191719, 1934 36, a nd 1950. Although t h e categori es are not strictly
comparable, it is evide nt that proportionately less is being spent in
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


direct payments for doctors' and hospital services and more in
indirect payments for these services through various insurance
plans. Nevertheless, it becomes apparent that the importance of
hospital care has increased when allowance is made for the fact
that it accounted for an estimated two-thirds of prepaid medical
care expenses in 1950. (See discussion of health insurance,
p. 173.)

16.- P ercent distribution of medical care ex penditures by wage and clerical
workers' families, 1917- 19, 1934-36, and 1950
T ype of expend it ure

1917- 19

1934- 36


--T otal medical care:
Amo unt. ... ..... . ..... ........ .. . ....... . . ... ....... .. .... .... .
P ercent. ........ .. . ....... .. ....• . .. . .. ..• ..•.• ..... . • . .. ... . ...
Direct expend itures:
Physicians ...... ..... . . _....... .. . ................ .. ..... . . .... I lospltaL . . . ... ... ...•...... ... ... .•... . .. •.............. .. . . ...
N ursing care ___ ____________ ____ ___________ _____ ____ ___________ __
Dentist. .. .. .. ... ........... . ........ .. _........... ... . ·- ..... . .
E yeglasses . . ..... . . ... ... .... . . . . .... .. ........ .. ... . .. .. . ..... .
l\1edicincs, drugs, and appliances ______ __ _____ _______ ___ __ ___ __ _
Other medical ea, e... .. ... ·········· · · •·- ...... . ............. .
Prepaid medical care _______ _______ _____ ____ __ ___ ___ ___ __ ____ ______ _







I 8




(' )
(' )





!Tospital expenses in 1917- 10 inclu de ph ysicians' fees wh ile patien t was hos pitnlizcd.
Less th an 0.5 percent.
' So me of the reported expenditure of $3.47 for "lodges, clubs, soclelics" can be assumed to have been for
sickness and death benefits .


Souncic: 1917- 19-Cost of L iving in the United States, U.S. B urea u of Labor Statistics B ulletin 357;
1934- SO- !-. l oney Disbursements of W age E arners and Clerical Workers, 1934- 36, U.S . Burca n of Labo
Stat isl irs Bulletin 638; 1950- Unp u blished Bureau of Labor Stat istics data fo r wage and clerical worker
families i □ a 17~city suhsa ru plc from the Survey of Consum er Ex penditures in 1950.

Comparison of workers' medical care expenditure s with those
of the population as a whole provides another measure of the
adequacy of the care obtained by the workers. A study of expenditures for all personal health services in 1953 made by the
Health Informatio n Foundation (a group sponsored by the drug,
pharmaceut ical, chemical, and allied industries) indicated that
United States families in general spent 37 percent for physicians,
20 percent for hospitals, 15 percent for medicines, 13 percent for
other medical goods and services, and 16 percent for dentists. The
distribution of expenses by wage and clerical workers' families in
1950 given in table 16, when adj usted by allocating two-thirds of
prepaid medical care to hospitals and one-third to physicians, is
very similar to the Health Informatio n Foundation distribution .
Differences by Occupational Groilp and R egion. Within the three
broad geographic regions, medical expenditure s in 1901 were about
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

equal for families of cler ical and sales workers and skilled wage
earners. In the North, fami lies of semiskilled workers tended to
spend less than the clerical an d skilled, and unskilled workers the
least. Medical expenditures of semiskilled and unskilled workers
in the West and South, however, exceeded those of clerical and
skill ed workers, which may be due in part to their great er expenditures for "burial insurance," which were included in t he
medical care category.
For all classes of workers combined, the level of "sickness and
death" expenditures in 1901 was the same in the North a nd West
and somewhat higher in the South. Fewer families in t he West
t han in the orth or the South reported medical care expenditures,
which suggests a lower incidence of illness in that less populated
area as well as a more limited availability of services. Medical
care expenditures (averaging $9.23) by only 39 percent of workers'
families in the Far West (Colorado, California, and Washington)
are further evidence of the existence of these conditions.
In 1950, the relative positions of the regions with respect to the
average medical care expenditure of workers' fam ilies (including
1-person families) had changed. There was practically no difference in the proportion of families reporting medical expenses,
but the average expenditure in the South was lowest, and in the
West was highest. Within each region, the average expenditures
of the clerical and t h e skilled workers' families were about the
same. Semiskilled workers' families spent less t han clerical and
skilled workers in all three regions, but used about the same percent of their incomes for medical care. Expenditures of the unskilled workers, especially in the South, were substantially lower
than those of the other groups.
M ed ical care spending by urban wage and

clerical workers' fam ilies 1 in the-

l _-~ -

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ,___
N_or_ti_, ~--S-ou-th__

A vcragc expenditure:

All families . ____ ______ ___ _______ ________ ______ ____ ___ __ ___
F ami lies reporting such ex penditure ___ __________________ _




p,,rccnt of/amilics re porting such expendit ure _________ ______ _




$ 152



A ,·cragc ex pend iture:

All fam ilies ____________ _________ ___ ___ ________ ___ ___ ____ __

Families re po rting s uch ex pendi ture _____ _______________ __

Percen t of fam ilies report ing such expendit ure _____ ______ ____ _


$1 89

T he 1950 data Include !-person "families" ; the 1901 sur vey covered fam ilies ol 2 or more .
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


The preceding tabulation compares expenditures, in dollars, by
regi on, in 1901 and 1950 . Comparative prices of the various items
of medical care for the 2 years are not available, but consumer
prices in general were roughly 3 tim es as high in 1950 as in 1901.
Influ en ce of Family Size and I ncom e. Studi es at the beginning
of thi s century do not tell us exactly h ow medical care expenditures
differed for fa milies of differ ent size and incom e. That many of
th e very lowest income families received free m edical care, if they
had any at all, is s uggested by the following commen t from one
local first-hand study in 1908 :
... expenses incurred for health count a s a lu x ury to be ind ul g ed
in only with increa sin g income. When, for instanl:e, a child is ill ,
the s tate of t he pocketbook, no less t han th e se riousness of th e
di sease, d et ermi ne wh ether the doctor shall be called. Tonics for
the r und own in s pringtime are di s pensed w ith in a laborer 's hom e.
Perhap s the te nd ency in thi s direction that is most seriou s in its
res ults is the cus tom of relyin g up on m i-d wi ves in confinem ent.
While this is more fr eq uent am ong th e fo rei g ner s, man y Eng li shs peaki ng women call in midw ives because th eir fees ar e mu ch
smaller and because th ey help in housework. There are no v is iting
nurses . .. whose a ss is tance can be secured for an hou r or so.8

In 1917- 19 and agai n in 1934- 36, surveys sh owed th at workers'
families increased their m edical care expenditures as incomes increased, and at abo ut the same rate, so that medical ex p enses
represented abo ut the same percentage of total spendin g at each
income level. With the much higher real incomes of 1950, r elative
spending for medical care decreased as income increased. In that
year, fam ilies of wage earners and clerical workers u sed a n average
of 6.7 percent of their total expendi t ures for medical care in the
lowest reported income range (under $1,000) and 4.0 percent in
the highest range ($10,000 and over).
The 1950 pattern is that us ually associated with items considered as "necessities" in the fam ily budget. The fact that it has
begun to appear for medical care in t h e spending patterns of
worker s' families ind icates the hi gh order of importance they place
on such expense. It a lso suggests that some measure of satisfaction of this n eed h as been attained, because as workers go up
the income scale th ey do n ot devote all of their increased income
to medical care or even increase their expenditures for this
purpose proportionately.
Although the proportion of total workers' fam ily expenditures
allocated t o med ical care in 1950 decreased with increases in in-

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

come, the number of dollars spent per person rose with income
except in the 3 lowest income classes, as shown below:

In com<' cla:--s

Fa mil y

A vrr:igr expendi ture-

- -- -· -

Prr family

Per perso11 urc

per ram1l y as
pcre<· n L of

total f'x pe11di-


A II incomes . _

3. 4



5. 1

l;1Hle r $1,000-

2. 3
2. 9

22 1


6. 7
5. 3

$ 1,000 a nd und er $2.flOO ___ _

$2,000 a nd
$3,000 and
$4,0UO a nu
$.i,000 and
$fi,OOO ~l1td

111Hler $:l .000 ___ _
111u..lrr $4,000 ____ _
und er $.,.0(J(L __
LI JH.h:r $ti,(){)() _ __ ____ _

u 11clcr $i.f1{)()_ __ _

$/ ,!")00 and lll Hh'r $10,0(X) __

$10,IX)() a nd owr ___

3. 4
3. 5
:i. 7
:J. 9

4. 2
4. 5




.,. 4

5. 4
5. 0
4. 7
4. 8
4. 7
4 . (J

Similar declines in proportionate expendi tures for medical care
with rises in incomes were found for all United States families in
th e 1953 survey of the Health Information Foundation. The
share of income going for medical car e was 11.8 percent for families with incomes under $2,000, 6.1 percent for incomes of $2,000$3,499, and 3.0 percent for incomes over $7,500.

Adequacy of Expenditures
On e important question is left unanswered by the records of
family expenditures for medi cal car e : How adequate were these
expenditures to buy the medical care needed by t hese fami lies?
From tim e to tim e in the past 50 yean;, there have been attempts
to establish the cost of variou s standards of li ving. For thi s purpose, budgets wh ich described the quantities of goods and services
needed to achieve a specified level of living for a workingman's
fami ly were developed and th eir cost s estim ated.
In the earliest of these budgets, little special attention was
gi ven to medical care ; the average expend iture usually was assigned to this item with out any attempt to determine its adequacy.
As techniques for developing budgets advanced and improved
standards of adequacy were developed, more valid estimates of t h e
cost of adequate medical care were made.
Thu s, meaningful comparisons can be mad e between expenditures a nd budget e::;timates beginning with the middle 1930's. The
Works Progress Administration's maintenance and emergency
budgets for March 1935 represent the first major attempt to arrive
at costs for a large population. (See item 18, table 28, p. 237. )
Th ese budgets were prepared for 59 cities throughout the country
a nd the costs for all cities combined were also calculated. The
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


maintenance budget's estimated cost of medical care of $52 for a
4-person family compares with an expenditure of $59 in 1934- 36
by fami lies of employed wage earn ers and clerical worker s, with
average family size 3.6 persons, or a budget cost of $13 and an
expenditure of $16 per per on. Thus, the average amount spent
by employed wor kingmen's fami lies on medical care during this
depression period was slight ly above "an adequate standard of
living at the lowes t economic level."
In 1947, the Bureau of Labor Statistics developed t he City
Worker's Family Budget-a "modest but adequate" level of living
for a wagewor ker's fami ly of 4 persons-husband, wife, a boy 13
years old, and a girl 8 years old. (See items 19 and 20, table 28,
p. 237.) The items included in the budget were determined from
information on the pre-World War II spending patterns of families
who had attained this level of living. The report for this study
describes the allowances for medical and dental care as follows :
The amount of medical care received ... can best be measured in
the number of home and office calls on physicians. These ranged
from a low of about 2.3 calls per person in the lower brackets to
about 6.0 calls p er person in the higher income brackets. The budget
level is determined at about 4.4 cans per person.
The dental care budget was worked out in the same fa shion and
is slightly over 1 case every 2 years per person.
The needs for medical and dental care, a s services directly related
to physical health, probably wi)l eventually be formulated in a set
of actuarial standards approved by the medical and dental profession
and other informed authorities. At present, the detailed and authentic statistical data necessary to the formulation of such a . et
of standard requirements do not exist. It is, therefore, not possible
to adapt the budget determination of the med ical care requireme nt s
to any set of standards corresponding to those used for food and
The medical and dental standards established in this budget are
characteristic of an income level above that of the other groups of
goods and services. This corresponds to t he generally a ccepted observation that the majority of United States families have not been
r eceiving a satisfactory volume of these essential services. Ther e
is considerable evidence that the medical care sought by families
at all income levels is gradually increasing. This increase reflects
both more widespread use of insurance plans, credit arrangements,
and medical prepayment plans and also increased public education
in the necessity of more adequate medical and dental care.n

When this budget was priced in 10 cit ies in October 1949, the
costs of medical care for this 4-person fami ly ranged from $176
to $248, with a med ian cost of $182. On a per-person basis, th is
would be a range of $44 to $62, with a median of about $46.
Wage-earner and clerical-worker families in 1950, averaging
3.4 persons, spent an average of $200 per family, or about $59 per
person. (Average prices of medical care rose less than 2 percent

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

between 1949 and 1950.) Since the budget included medical goods
and services characteristic of those received by relatively highincome families in prewar years, the fact that the 1950 average
expenditures exceeded the 1949 median budget cost is additional
evidence that workers' families have gone a long way toward
meeting their medical care needs.
Variability in Medical Costs. "The principal problem in the costs
of medical care devolves not from the average cost but from the
variation in cost." 1 0 This statement from a 1928-31 study echoed
the theme of reports on conditions of workers' fami lies in 1900
and is still true today. If all families could expect to have only
the average expenditure for medical care, currently about 4 or 5
percent of th eir income, this could be budgeted and probably met
without undue hardship. In the 1928-31 study, however, it was
found that the average medical expenditure for families with incomes of less than $1,200 was $49, but that 11 percent of these
families incurred over 50 percent of the total medical expenses
reported by that income group.
Similar findings were reported from the 1950 BLS expenditure
survey: 11 percent of all the families had 40 percent of the total
medical expenditures and 8 percent of the fami lies with incomes
of less than $1,000 incurred about 50 percent of the medical care
costs of that group. A relatively small proportion of families paid
for a large proportion of the total bills for each income class. (See
chart 8.) Of the families whose medical expenses exceeded $400,
the proportion ·who had health insurance decreased as the level
of expenditures rose. This suggests that the extent of participation in prepaid or insured health plans may be a factor in the
variability of expenditures for medical care.
F1'ee Medical Care. One further difficulty in assessing the adequacy of medical care received by examining average fam ily expenditures is that frequently families receive some medical care
free. Often this is of a preventive nature-periodic physical examinations under an in-plant med ical service program, for exampleand is overlooked by families reporting in the surveys. They may
also neglect to report free medical care for work-connected injuries
and for military-service disabilities. In addition to such legally
required compensation, workers increasingly have obtained from
employers contractual rights under health and welfare or insurance
plans which reduce their direct costs for medical care, and the
benefits received under these rights may or may not be reported in
expenditure surveys. Moreover, it is impossible to assign a monetary value to the benefits which accr ue to the individual worker
t hrough the very large public expendit ures a nd philanthropic con-
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Chart 8 .



Percent ol All Fom11tes
Reporting MPd1cal
Expen d 1l uresol
$5QQor Mo, e o


~ -·r

Percent of Total Medica l Core E xoerid1 l ures Represented by
Fom1l!es Spendmg i 500 or More for Medical Core


















$2 ,000




























$1 0,000



I All Consum er Unif s, i n cl uding I-per son families

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


tributions for medical and related scientific research, invention,
experimentation, and education of personn el. Finally, prepaid
systems, in basic conception and mode of operation, also mean t hat
many persons obtain services whose value is far beyond th e actual
cost, to them, of their particular prepayment fees.
Historically viewed, medical care furni shed by clinics and as part
of public assistance programs has been important to workers' families, and the educational work of these organizations has had widespread effect on the h ealth of the whole Nation. Medical services
provided by employers have und oubtedly expand ed-with some
such services being avai lable to substantial numbers of workers.
There are also a few union h ealth centers which provide services
for members either gratis or at nominal fees. From whatever
source, about 15 percent of the fami lies of wage and clerical workers reported receivi ng some free medical care in 1950. This averaged about $18 for a ll famil ies, or about $120 for those receiving
the care.
The difficulties which wage earner s and salaried employees face
in paying for adequate medical care, although still too seri ous for
many of them to overcome, have lesse ned over the years. Improvements in the workers' eco nomi c statu s and in t h e h ealth services
available have already been detailed. The difficulties have also been
alleviated by such developments as workmen's compensation laws,
provisions for health benefits in collective bargaining agreements,
a nd group insurance programs.
In 1911, agitation for workmen's compensation legislation began
to h ave effect and within the next decade 42 States passed laws
which placed upon the employer the r esponsibility or "liability" for
injuries resulting from the working conditions of his employees .
None of the early workmen's com pensation laws specificall y covered occupational diseases, but the trend toward explicit coverage
had been established by 1930, when all or specified t ypes of diseases
were covered in 15 of the laws.
Not only did the workmen's compensation laws provide some protection against wage loss, but, being based upon employer s' liability, they also tended to moderate opposition to laws for maintenance of minimum standard s of safety and sanitation in factories
a nd other workplaces. And, beginning in 1918, States began to incorporate rehabilitation programs into their compensation systems.
Today, all States have workmen's compensation laws which have
been vastly improved in recent years. However, these laws vary
widely in their coverage and the adequacy of their provisions for
medical, disab ility, and survivor benefits. Some laws restrict cov-
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


erage to so-called "hazardous " employmen ts ( 12 States) ; many
exempt employers having fewer than a specified number of employees (29 States) ; and most of the laws exclude farmwork,
domestic service, and casual employmen t. A majority of the
States provide unlimited medical care for injuries "arising out of
and in the course of employmen t," but in 13 States, length-of-ti me
or cost limitations or both are set by law. In add ition, 2 States
provide no coverage of occupationa l diseases a nd 18 States cover
only listed or "schedule" diseases.
The increasing public demand for more adequate medical care
stimulated widespread discussion of publi c and private health inurance for the general population, about which there was much
debate. The interest thus aroused resulted in the creation of
voluntary plans, some of them the results of labor-mana gement
agreements .
Some union s were already admi nistering a type of health insurance program. They commonly made some provis ion-usuall y a
cash benefit similar to that of the mutual-ben efit association-for
aiding member in illness, accidental disability, or bereavemen t,
either on an informal basis or by means of regularly constituted
and administere d benefit funds. In 1931, the unions then comprising the American Federation of Labor paid to their members more
than $9.7 million in sickness, death, and disability benefits. Some
unaffiliated unions, notably in railroading, also provided benefits.
The importance of union ben fit programs began to lessen during
the 1930's.
The r eally significant union and manageme nt activities in the
health care fi eld began to develop on a large scale during World
War II, when wartime wage controls provided lhe impetus for collective bargaining for "fringe benefits." In the field of h ealth
care, these included the direct provision of medical services, medical
car e insurance, and payment of cash benefits. Recent trends in
this area ha ve been toward covering the workers' dependents and
retired workers, adding new benefits, and increasing the level of
benefits. In addition, growing numbers of workers are covered by
plan s which are financed solely by the employer, rather than jointly
by the employer and the workers. In 1945, an estimated half million workers were covered by collective bargaining agreeme nts providing benefits for accident and sickness and for hospital , surgical,
or other medical care, or protection against death or dismember ment. By mid-1948, the fig·ure had passed 3 million and in 1950 it
reach ed about 7 million. Al the encl of 1956, estimated coverage
of such agreements xceecled 12 million work r s, and many also
cov r ed workers' dependents and retired workers. The majority
of these programs provide medical care insurance.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

A few programs provide direct medical services in medical centers and hospitals financed by contributions made under the plan.
One of the most noteworthy of these is that administered by the
International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, which pioneered in
the establishment of health centers. The ILGWU today operates
health centers in 13 cities in the United States, and in 7 other cities
operates centers jointly with other unions or by such other arrangements as contracts with private clinics. The union started its first
health center in New York City in 1913, as part of a drive to eliminate unsanitary workshops and to control tuberculosis. A few
years later the center offered medical and diagnostic services at a
nominal charge and it continued to expand. In 1945, a collectively
bargained health and welfare plan to which employers contributed
took over its financing, and fees for most services were abolished.
In 1955, the center served 50,000 patients through examinations,
physical and X-ray therapy, various kinds of tests and diagnoses,
nutrition services, and a pharmacy.
Probably unique among negotiated health and welfare programs
are those provided for in the 1946 agreements between the United
Mine Workers and bituminous-coal and anthracite mining operators. The programs are financed by tonnage levies on coal paid to
the United Mine Workers Welfare and Retirement Fund. The
fund's operations have built, equipped, and staffed a chain of hospitals and clinics throughout the mining areas in communities lacki ng
adequate faci lities. Special attention has been given to occupational diseases such as silicosis, to major disabling injuries such as
paraplegia, and to the rehabilitation of patients.
For the public at large, but especially important for wage earners
and low-salaried employees, group prepayment plans for hospital
service, largely sponsored by hospital associations, got an effective
start in the 1930's. Much less extensive were prepayment plans
for medical service. In the 1940's, private insurance entered the
field and by the end of World War II, prepayment programs, especially for hospitalization, were well established.
As of July 1953, 61 percent of the entire population and 70 percent of urban families were covered by some type of health insurance. Of fam ilies with insurance, 77 percent obtained it in connection with employment. Among industries, the coverage varied
from 33 percent in agriculture, forestry, and fi sheries to 90 percent
in mining; coverage for all industries combined was about 70 percent. At the end of 1956, about 116 million persons in the United
States had some (usually not full) protection for hospital expenses;
101 million for at least some surgical expenses; and 65 million for
some medical (largely in-hospital) expenses. American workers,
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


with many exceptions to be sure, have made substantial progress in
the handling of their medical care costs.
Clearly, the American worker and his fami ly are receiving better
medical care than ever before. He is better informed of health
hazards and knows more about what has been done in the past,
what is available today, and what the prospects are for the future.
There is general acceptance, also, of the idea that his health problems are not his alone but the responsibility of the whole community working together. He knows that a vast army of scientific,
educational, financial, and legislative experts is waging war against
preventable maladies and against unnecessary suffering from unavoidable ills. His earnings, supplemented by benefits from insurance plans, health foundations, labor union and management programs, and public health services, are more nearly adequate than
ever before to meet the demands of illness and to maintain his
family's standard of living during periods of enforced idleness. His
increased income has permitted him to buy the more nutritious
foods he learns about through all kinds of educational programs
and advertising and finds in modern sanitary markets. He has a
much better chance to live in a comfortable home in a community
which furnishes him many services that were either unavailable or
woefully inadequate in 1900.
This is not to say that all his health needs have been met, or that
the unsolved problems are inconsequential. Noteworthy is the
inadequacy of the various insurance or prepayment plans as to
coverage both of persons and of types of medical costs. Thus, the
1953 surveys sponsored by the Health Information Foundation
showed, as previously indicated, that substantial groups of the
population had no health insurance. On the basis of fami ly income, only 41 percent of those under $3,000 had any form of health
insurance, while 80 percent of fam ilies with over $5,000 had some
health insurance. Moreover, the foundation reported that prepayment plans covered only one-half of hospital charges, 38 percent of
surgery charges, 25 percent of obstetrics charges, 13 percent of
physicians' charges, and negligible proportions, if any, of other
costs. These "other costs" include dentistry, drugs and medicines,
and other medical goods and services accounting for more than twofifths of medical care costs. Prepayment covered only 15 percent
of all medical care charges incurred. In addition, uninsured persons had much less medical care, presumably at least in part because of the costs, than insured persons.
Progress in bringing regular preventive as well as curative medical care under insurance arrangements is, however, indicated by
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

recent growth in group practice plans of various kinds. Advance
toward a healthier nation has been a nd will be costly. The increasing administrative and other costs of medical services through
direct payments and indirectly through taxation and contributions
to health organizations call for constant study and improved
financing lest they become oppressive.
Medical progress has eliminated many of the hazards of childhood and has lengthened the life span, but longer life expectancy
has been accompanied by new health problems both physical and
mental. Diseases associated with age have become more important.
The result of this shift has been to place a large proportion of the
burden of the cost of medical care on persons in the older age
groups who are least able to pay for it. The tensions and rapid
tempo of modern living have increased the incidence of mental illness; at the same time, extension of research and treatment of
mental illness has lagged behind that of other illnesses. More
than one-half of all hospital beds are occupied by the mentally ill,
and well over $1 billion a year are spent by Federal and State governments for caring for the mentally ill in public hospitals and in
pensions to veterans with neuropsychiatric disabilities. Despite
the increase in facilities, there are not enough accommodations for
those who need treatment.
Although the worker or a member of his family is more apt to be
killed in an automobile accident than he is on his job, job safety is
still a serious problem. Disabling work injuries in 1956 reached a
total of 1,990,000, with 14,300 deaths and approximately 81,700
workers suffering some permanent physical impairment. The
average length of disability for others injured was 18 days. All
States now have workmen's compensation laws, but there are still
many gaps in the coverage of both employment and occupational
disease, as previously indicated. Benefits under these laws,
designed as partial compensation for wage loss, have lagged far behind rising wage levels.
Changing conditions and shifts in industry and population to new
sites, with the subsequent deterioration of older residential areas,
continually reintroduce slum housing problems. Virtually all urban
areas have safe water supplies and provision for sewage disposal,
but keeping them thus requires constant vigilance and improvement-a costly process. The most recent addition to the problems
of the sanitary engineer is how to prevent contamination of water
supplies from radioactive materials. As these have found more
common industrial use, new methods of industrial waste disposal
are being developed.
In many areas, much still needs to be done to make medical services readily accessible to the workers. For example, in 1956, there
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


was still wide variation among the States in the ratio of physicians
to population: 1 for every 500 in New York, compared with 1 for
every 1,300 in Mississippi and Alabama.
Despite th ese problems, there can be litt le doubt that the advice
that more attention be paid to "the improvement of the conditions
of health of the working class," 11 given in a 1903 report of the
Labor Department, has been followed with greater success than its
author could have imagined. A major phase of progress since
1903 has been a dimming of the lines of classes, so that continu ed
advances call for attention t o the health problems not so much of
the "working class" as of the Nation. In the fut ure, however, as
in the past, progress would seem to turn upon a judicious mixture
of individual and family alertness, mutual self-help, and a diversity
of public policies in areas beyond the compet ence of individuals and
groups. Thus may a substantial measure of reality be given to the
World Health Organization's ideal of health-"a state of complete,
physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence
of disease."
1 Hannah R. Sewall, Child Lab or in the United States, Bulletin of the
U.S. Bureau of Labor, No. 52 (Washington, 1904), p. 528.
2 Eva MacDonald Valesh, The Tenement House Problem in New York
(in The Arena, April 1893, pp. 580-584).
3 Margaret F. Byington, Homestead, The Households of a Mill Town (New
York, Russell Sage Foundation, Charities Publication Committee, 1910, pp.
3, 4).
4 Ibid., p. 23.
5 C. F. W. Doehring, Factory Sanitation and Lab or Protection, Bulletin of
the Department of Labor, No. 44 (Washington, January 1903), pp. 2, 3.
s G. W. W. Hanger, Housing of the Working People in the United States
by Employers, in The E x hibit of the United States Bureau of Labor at the
Louisiana Purchase E xposition, Bulletin of the Bureau of Labor, No. 54
(Washington, September 1904), p. 1192.
7 Oscar Handlin, The Uprooted (Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1951),
8 Byington, op. cit., p. 87.
9 Workers' Budgets in the United States: City Families and Single Persons,
1946 and 1947, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Bulletin 927 (Washingto n ,
1948) , pp. 14- 15.
10 I. S. Falk, Margaret C. Klem, and Nathan Sinai, The Incidence of i llness and the Receipt and Costs of Medical Care Among Representcitive
Families: Exveriences in Twelve Consecutive Months During 1928-31,
An Abstract of a Report Published for the Committee on t he Costs of Medical Care by the University of Chicago Press ( Washingto n, January 1933),
p. 17.
11 Doehring, op. cit., p. 3.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


The Revolution in Transportation
Probab ly morn Americans go more places 11w1·e
often than the inhabitants of any other nation on
- Thomas R. Carnkadon and George Soule.

A reckless forecaster concluded in 1909 that it was "nothing less
than feeb le-mindedness to expect anything to come of the horseless
carriage movement" in the United States. 1 A deterrent to more
widespread ownership of the automobile "was thought to be the
need of every motorist to keep his car in a costly 'autom obile house'
equipped with complete repair facilities, drainage pits, washing
apparatus, and turntable." Three years later, a proposed 50,000mile national highway system was attacked as benefiting "a few
wealthy pleasure seekers." The revolu tionary growth of automotive trucki ng was not anticipated, a crit ic contending: "It should be
understood in t he first place that these highways are intended for
. . . automobile touring traffic, since for long-d istance freight
transportation it is impossible for haulage over any road surface to
compete with the low cost of hauling on a railway."
These predictions were no more accurate than thos e made for
the steam locomotive, which men would be unable to end ure, so
so me believed, because of its speed. As for the airplane, some
thought that in 1905 it "had reached the limits of success." The
a pparent consensus was that few Americans would go far from
home and that virtua lly all of them would get about within their
own commun ity on the local transit line.
Th e most outstanding proof of the lack of vision on the part of
these early for ecasters is that transportation developments since
1900 have been dominated by the acquisition of an a utomobi le by
the typical American family. The automobile transformed modes
of travel; even more significantly, it altered leisure-time a nd social
activities, changed the concepts of residential areas for workers,
and influenced apparel habits. Numerous new industries and mi llions of jobs were created to produce a nd service motor vehicles and
to serve their passengers-industries and jobs far transcending
t hose displaced or made obsolescent, such as wagon and harness
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


. ,~ -, ;s,·__ . .

MUD AND CONC RETE- Two views of the same place taken 27 years apart
s how the influence of automobile travel. Improved vehicles, ever-increasing
speeds, and part substitution of trucking for rail and water transportation,
have led inevitably to our present program of highway development.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

making. Not only private cars, but also motor buses, trucks, and
airplanes have greatly accelerated movement of people, mail, and
freight in this century. As a consequence, workers' horizons broadened far beyond transit lines, trips on bicycles, and railroad or
riverboat excursions.
These developments in transportation since the early years of
the 20th century are mirrored in changes in family spending. With
their higher real earnings and technology giving them a chance,
workers' families have chosen to allocate a much greater proportion of their incomes to travel and transportation. There is no
simple explanation for this preference, but some of the causes can
be delineated. Memories of the population density and housing
congestion prevailing in many urban centers early in the century
(see chapter III) heightened interest in more comfortable living
and encouraged a surge of migration from central cities to suburban areas. This surge was facilitated by the new forms of transport, but its very volume also created a demand for more and better
transportation. The progressive reduction in the length of the
workday, the adoption of the 5-day week, and the increasing prevalence of paid vacations, especially among production workers, have
provided more leisure which could be devoted to travel. (See chapter IX.)
Two other elements also contributed to the growing importance
of transportation, especially as represented by the automobile, in
the worker's budget. Social security benefits such as unemployment compensation, health insurance, and retirement pensions have
provided greater economic security and encourage less dependence
on savings for use in emergencies. Antedating these developments,
but undoubtedly given impetus by them, were the development and
growth of installment credit to finance the purchase of consumer
durable goods, of which the automobile is the most costly item.
Merchandising developments paced the rapid expansion in the
use of the passenger automobile and the truck. Rising family incomes and expansion of the size of the middle-income groups led
automobile manufacturers to concentrate on production of cars for
this market. As the market became more competitive, car manufacturers engineered new features which were displayed in annual
models. Success in promoting the sales of new models and availability of replacement parts led to the development of the used car
market, a secondhand market exceeded in size only by the market
for used homes.

In 1900, the urban worker relied largely on his own feet or on
public transit for his transportation. He lived ordinarily in a con-
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


gested city or a mill town, in a dwelling close to his place of employment. In a very large community, subway and elevated line~
were his principal means of transport if he lived some distance
from his employment. The breadwinner who lived in an outlying
section of a large city relied on electrified surface transportation to
and from work; within the city limits he usually walked or rode a
bicycle. Although rentals were often lower in outlying areas, the
time required for streetcar journeys to and from work was an important offset to workers who might be employed for 9, 10, or even
as long as 12 hours a day. Moreover, the demands on income for
the essentials of living-food, shelter, and clothing-left little resources for excursions or travel, even if less time had been spent at
work or if paid vacations had been prevalent. And in addition,
transportation facilities were limited, with the exception of local

Public Transportation
The dispersion of city population had, however, begun late in the
19th century. The Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, for example,
specifically exempted rail commutation tickets from its prohibition
on the granting of special fare rates by railroads. Moreover, the
electrification of street railways, which was 97 percent complete by
1902, increased the maximum area from which a central city drew
its work force to 12½ square miles, or about 6 times that of the
horse-drawn vehicle.
Representatives of the British Board of Trade who surveyed living conditions in cities east of the Mississippi River in 1909 observed of Boston that "relief from much of the normal pressure of
congestion [was] afforded by an excellent tramway system," a
private electric surface system with 474 miles of track. 2 "The area
served was largely beyond the city boundaries," including 12 cities
and towns. The same report pointed out that electric car service
in Lowell provided transportation "not only between different parts
of the city, but also between Lowell and many distant places," including Boston, Lawrence, Haverhill, and Worcester in Massachusetts; Nashua, New Hampshire; and Providence, Rhode Island.
"The cars," observed another report, "are an undoubted boon to the
working classes in affording access to many unspoiled stretches of
country; and in summer, special cars are often chartered for picnics
to various points." 3
Transit rides per capita for the urban population grew sharply
and steadily from 177 a year in 1902 to a peak of 287 in 1917-a
war year. More than 90 percent of these were by surface railway,
the remainder represented elevated and subway services. (See
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Chart 9.

Selected Years, 1905-54

90 -



60 -

50 -


40 -











1/ i ~,~
I '-.,_~.











I _..,. ~·-..,. •-


, • - - · - · - - - -·

0 .___._---'--'--'-....L..J'-'-'....L..J'-'--L...1....'-'-_.,""-•:;;;;.-•;.c.
· ·-:;_
- • ' ......._..L.L....L.L...L..1-.1....1.-1....l..1....1.~-'-'
1950 1954
Source·. The Metropollton Tronsp ortot1on Problem, Wilfred Owen . Tobie 17, p 282
Based on data supplied by the American Trade Assoc1ot1on

- -


chart 9.) Motor buses were only being introduced at the time of
World War I.
Expenditures for carfare by industrial workers in 1901 were not
recorded as a separate item in the BLS consumer expenditure survey of that year. Another source reveals that in 1902 the fare on
about two-thirds of the urban street railways in the United States
was 5 cents. Over one-third of the transit companies offered fares
of approximately 4 cents to patrons under certain conditions, and it
was common practice to charge lower fares to school children. And
a 1907 study of workingmen's families in New York City indicated
an average annual expenditure of $13.91, or 1.7 percent of average
income. At that time, only 52 percent of the families in Manhattan
and 67 percent in other boroughs reported carfare costs. A similar
study in Buffalo in 1908 revealed an annual outlay of $14.83, or 2.5
percent of average income. The differential is partly explainable
by the fact that average income was $242 lower in Buffalo. Figures
for the United States as revealed in the 1917- 19 survey of the U. S.
Department of Labor showed expenditureR for streetcar fares by
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


89 percent of the families surveyed. Outlays for transit costs
averaged $23.99, or 1.8 percent of the average annual expenditure
for current consumption.
Early in the century, railroads were the backbone of intercity
transportation. In 1900, 258,784 miles of rail existed in the United
States, or about twice the mileage of surfaced roads. Railroad
passenger miles expanded from 16 billion in 1900 to a pre-World
War II peak of 47 billion passenger miles in 1920.
Workers' families, however, seldom took long trips. Even during
World War I, when their increased incomes would buy one-fourth
more goods and services than in 1901, less than 10 percent of the
workers' families surveyed by ELS reported expenditures for
travel. Possibly some of the expenditures for excursions and vacations were actually for travel also, but average expenses for all 3
purposes, computed on the basis of all families surveyed, totaled
less than $11 a year. Expenditures revealed in the 1917- 19 study
may have been subnormal, however, because of the transportation
difficulties generated by World War I, which especiall y affected intercity travel, vacations, and other excursions.

The Automobile
Although great strides had been taken in the development of the
automobile, which appeared on the American scene in 1893, there
were in 1900 only about 8,000 cars-some electrically or steam
powered-bumping along crude and unpaved roads. The first road
census in 1904 reported 154,000 miles of improved highways, only
a quarter of which were hard surfaced.
Aside from the well-to-do, only a few skilled mechanics were
likely to have a car at the turn of the century, when automobile
designing was still highly experimental and crude construction
placed a premium on the mechanical competence of the owner.
More important, the average price of the automobile, then custom
built, was about $1,000, well in excess of the means of wage and
clerical workers. The average annual family income of such workers was about $650, according to the ELS 1901 income and expenditure survey; indeed, in the South the annual earnings of such workers were under $600. In 1901, Ransom E. Olds began quantity
production of a 2-person, 1-cylinder "curved-dash runabout," which
sold for $650-still too high for most workers' families. Over onehalf of the workers lived on less than this for an entire year and, in
any event, the typical family consisted of 4 persons. But most
manufacturers-including Mr. Olds' :financial backers-preferred
to make larger, more expensive cars, and by 1907 the average price
ranged between $1,776 and $2,275.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Imperfect materials and unsolved engineering problems added to
the cost of owning and maintaining an automobile. In 1905, the
manufacturer of the Rambler car published the testimonial of a
satisfied owner: "In a thousand miles, we had only 8 punctures and
no other repairs or adjustments-except, of course, to the coil,
vibrators, and clutch.""
By 1910, the automobile was beginning to prove its superiority
over horses for personal transportation. Production of cars had
advanced from 4,000 in 1900 to 181,000. Doctors, other professional men, and businessmen had begun to shift to the automobile
for daily use, and by the end of World War I, carriages had virtually
disappeared from city streets.
Most automobile manufacturers recognized during the second
decade of the 20th century that technological developments had
made mass production possible, and that success in the industry
depended on large volume and moderate prices. Ford's nonautomatic assembly line in 1913 reduced the time for attaching the
parts to the chassis from 14 hours to 6. A few years later, the use
of the first crude automatic device, a mechanically driven conveyor
chain, further reduced the assembly time to 1% hours.
Both wage increases and price reductions accompanied the productivity gains. In 1914, Ford reduced his work schedule to 8 hours
per day and instituted the $5 basic daily wage, replacing the minimum prevailing rate of 26 cents per hour. When Ford had begun
concentrating on the inimitable Model T in 1908, the initial price of
the touring car, $850, was well beyond the reach of wage earn ers.
By 1916, the touring car's price, f.o.b. factory, had declined to
$360, or perhaps a third of the average annual income of urban
worker families.
These developments, reinforced by widespread advertising and
the adaptation of the installment plan to car purchases, led to remarkable expansion in the demand for automobiles, and production
rose to almost 2 million in 1920. This represented 1 car for every
13 fam ilies. Automobiles led the list of nationally advertised products as early as 1915. Although sales on credit and installment
buying appeared much earlier for other durable goods, they first
appeared as inducements to the purchase of cars about 1913. By
1919, 32 percent of all sales of General Motors cars involved the use
of credit, and in that year the General Motors Acceptance Corporation was organized to expand financing for both dealers and
Despite the automobile's great increase in popularity, only 1 out
of every 18 families of urban workers surveyed by the Department
of Labor in 1917- 19 had an automobile. Undoubtedly, the average
income of $1,505 for a 5-person family was too low to permit wide-
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


spread ownership of a car. However, about 11 percent of the
workers whose family income exceeded $1,800 owned cars. Then
as now, families in western cities had the highest rate of car ownership-I in 10 worker families questioned, a rate three times that of
families in northern cities where public transportation was comparatively good.

Family Expenditures for Transportation

Although the next comprehensive study of the extent of workers'
ownership of cars was made in the mid-1930's, there are strong
indications that the number rose rapidly during the 1920's. Car
registrations tripled between 1919 and 1929, and were equivalent in
the latter year to 1 car for every 1% fami lies.
In the early twenties, nearly all dealers offered installment
credit; and acceptance of customers' old cars as part payment on
the purchase of a "newer" one was universal among dealers. By
juggling budgets and taking advantage of the extension of credit,
many wage earners and lower salaried workers fou nd it possible to
buy either a new low-priced car or a serviceable used car.
Even though the buying power of family incomes declined below
the 1929 peak during the first half of the thirties,* most families
managed to keep their cars or perhaps to acquire used ones. The
average car-owning fami ly chose to economize on clothing, housefurnishings, or food rather than relinquish the car-a convenience
for driving to work, for job hunting, shopping, and vacations. The
Bureau of Labor Statistics observed in connection with the 1935- 36
study of consumer purchases that "automobile ownership has been
one of the most depression-proof elements in the level of living of
families in all parts of the United States." 5 Moreover, data obtained in the 1934- 36 survey of expenditures of wage earners and
clerical workers indicated that the automobile was regarded as a
prestige acquisition as well as a convenient and popular means of
transportation. The Bureau reported that "nowadays when the
family has had a successful year, it is more apt to think of an automobile as a symbol of success rather than new clothes or furniture
for the parlor." G
The Bureau's 1934- 36 survey of expenditures of wage earners
and lower salaried clerical workers in 42 cities revealed car ownership by 44 percent of families surveyed, as shown in table 17, and
nearly 1 percent had more than 1 a utomobile. This represented an
eightfold growth in car ownership since World War I. Workers'
*Total s alaries and wages ebbed 40 percent between 1929 and l 933 ; cons umer prices f ell about
25 percent during the same period .

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

T ,I BLI•:

17.- P roportion of icagc-Parn er and c/erical-ll'orker fa milies Oll'nin g and
pur,·hnsi ll (/ car., in 1,2 cities, 1.984-36
l 11r·o1111•


or f:.uniliPsP urcliasi ng
au to mobil('

Own ing aut o-

mobile p11rr h ased d ll ring

during surn•y

sur vey year or
f'ar lkr

9 s I
21. 7

All incu 11 1cs ___ _

44. 4

$.'>00 a n d lln dc r $GOO •••.
$nOO and un der $900 .. __

$900 and unclrr 1,200 _ __
under $1,500. _.
under $1,800 ___
un der 2, 100 ... .
und er $2,400. _ . .
under $2. 700 ___ _
$2,700 and under $3,000. __ .
$:l ,000 and o,·cr. .. ...... .

45 . I

$ 1,200 " " "
. 1,:lOO and
$ 1,SOOand
$2, I 00 and
$2,400 and

---- --


49. 8
M. 6
1,1. 1

- -- ·




10. 8

1. 6
4. 3
ti . 2

12. I
15. I
18. 4
19. I
16. 7
2f>. 5


Sorno:: J\ l oney JJisbur~rments uf \\" age Earners anU Clerieul \\"orkers, 19:J-t - 3G, U.S. Uurcau of Labor
S Latisties ll ulle l in G:Js, p. 1:H,

real family incomes averaged about 10 percent higher in the midthirtie than in 1917-19, while the average size of families surveyed were smaller.
Thi fact, coupled with less demand on the fam il y budget for
food and clothing and more widespread ow nership of cars, resulted
in families expend ing nearly 3 times as much of their income in
1934 36 for travel and transportation as they did in 1917- 19-aver
8 percent compared with about 3 percent. The sharp rise in the
percentage of family expenditures allocated to travel and transportation in the 17-year span exte nd ed to all income levels of workers
included in the study. (See tab les 4 and 5, pp. 42 and 44.)
Expenditures in 1934- 36 averaged $87 per year for the purchase,
operation, and maintenance of automobiles, compared with $38 for
all other forms of transportation. For car-owning fami lies, the
average amount which workers' families spent on automobiles was
$197. Three-fourths of the cars bought during the survey year
were used, and the average cost per car was $300.
Transportation Facilities

These changes in expenditure patterns reflect not only a shift in
the value attached to car ownership by the family but also vast
technological changes in the field of transportation.

Public Transportation . The volume of passengers riding local
transit grew slowly during the 1920's but less rapidly than the
population. At the end of World War I, most workers who did not
walk relied on streetcars for local transportation. As late as 1922,
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


only 370 public motor buses were in operatio n by street and electric
railway compani es or their affiliates, but by 1929, 15 percent of the
public transit passeng ers rode buses.
The use of local public transpo rtation dropped sharply from a
total of 17 billion rides by all means of public conveya nce in 1929 to
a low of 11.3 billion in 1933, and then recovere d somewh at lo 13.1
billion in 1940. The average number of rides per city dweller fell
correspo ndingly from 252 in 1929 to 160 in 1933 and then rose to
176 in 1940. Much of the decrease during the thirties occurred , of
course, because of the large volume of unemplo yment during the
depressi on, but the losses also reflect the growing use of the automobile. Streetca r losses were heaviest ; indeed, buses gained
sharply, accounti ng for nearly a third of all public transit rides in
1940. (See chart 9.)
Meanwh ile, railroad passeng er service was losing ground; the
number of passeng er miles operated was little more than half as
much in 1936- 40 as it had been in 1916- 20. nailroad commut er
miles declined from almost 7 billion in 1930 to 4 billion 10 years
later. At the same time, intercity bus travel was expandi ng, and
in 1930 accounte d for one-fifth of the intercity passeng er traffic
carried by public conveya nces. By 1940, thi s proporti on had
reached about three-ei ghths.
Commer cial airlines had also gained a measure of public acceptance during the 1930's, and the number of passeng ers quadrup led
between 1935 and 1940. But in the latter year, the airlin es still
accounte d for only 3 percent of the total miles traveled by intercity
passeng ers on public transpo rtation.
Bus travel could not, of course, have become so popular without
great improve ments in the highway system. In 1921, expendi tures
for highway s by local, State, and national governm ents totaled $1.3
billion and rose in 1930 to $2.5 billion. During this period, the
number of miles of surfaced rural highway s also virtually doubled,
r eaching 694,000 miles in 1930. The expansio n quickene d during
the followin g decade, pushing the surfaced highway mileage to
1,340,000 in 1940.

Automo bile Tmv el. With the developm ent of this vast highway
network , coupled with increasi ng car ownersh ip, America ns
thronge d to scenic areas, especiall y State and national parks. During the 1920's, the number of visitors to national parks tripled.
Automo biles, which had supersed ed railroad s as the chief mode of
transpor tation for park visitors by 1925, delivere d almost 17 million
visitors to national parks in 1940, a fivefold expansio n since 1930.
Probabl y the most significa nt factor in the growth of car ownership was a drop of 40 percent in factory- delivere d prices of cars
between 1920 and 1930. Gasoline prices declined a third, averagin g
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

JOURNEY INTO SP ACE- In the crowded cities of earlier days, few workers had their own transportation. lV{ost walked, or traveled in publicly
owned vehicles. Trips into the countryside were an adventure. The improved highways of today witness daily the commuting of millions of workers in their own cars between home and place of work.

20 cents per gallon in 1930. Tire prices fell even more sharply.
Improvement in tire construction and materials, combined with
better surfaced streets and highways, tripled tire wear. Automobiles continued in the 1920's to offer more powerful engines, greater
comfort and durability, with the development of large-scale competitive automobile selling. Closed cars, which made all-year driving more enjoyable, began to supersede open car s in the midtwenties.
During the 1930's, manufacturers began to promote style
changes and brighter body colors. Cars became easier and safer to
drive, as leading manufacturers introduced hydraulic brakes, allmetal bodies, safety glass all around, and lower pressure tires. Mass
production by 3 major companies provided millions of new cars
retailing for less than $1,000. In the 3 years following 1!)30, factory-delivered prices of automobiles declined 5 percent but by 1940
had risen slightly above their 1930 level. The average life of passenger tires grew from 15,000 miles in 1930 to 22,000 miles in 1940,
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


as lower pressure "balloon" tires superseded smaller, harder-riding
tires. Factory prices of tires declined 18 percent from 1930 to
1934, but turned upward over 40 percent from 1934 to 1939 and
then dropped to 1930 levels in 1940. Gasoline prices, including
taxes, averaged about 18½ cents per gallon in 1940, compared with
20 cents in 1930. Although refiners greatly improved octane ratings, retail prices of gasoline (without taxes) dropped 3.4 cents per
gallon in that decade. However, State and Federal gasoline taxes
rose from an average of 3.8 cents in 1930 to 5.7 cents per gallon
in 1940.
The average mileage driven per car grew from 25,800 in 1925 to
85,500 miles in 1941, an increase which permitted a substantial
reduction in owners' overhead costs. By 1941, the average age of
cars scrapped had risen to 10.2 years, as compared with an average
life of 6½ years in 1925.

Transportation requirements were sharply increased during
World War II by the expansion of employment and, for many industries, a return to a 6-day week. At the same time, the production of passenger cars for private use was discontinued between
1942 and 1945, and gasoline and tires were rationed. Thus, although there was widespread formation of worker car pools for
trips to and from work, public transportation facilities faced heavy
demands. Transit rides expanded by 80 percent over the 1940
level, reaching a peak in 1946 of 23.4 billion a year, or 282 rides per
person. Thereafter, local transit use declined rapidly; by 1955, it
barely equaled the depression low of 1933, and was no higher than
in 1912. Rides per capita of 124 in 1955 set a new low record.
Railroads and intercity buses experienced similar trends. The
high level of industrial activity, extensive troop movements, and
the virtual banning of intercity and commuter trips by automobile
combined to produce an all-time record of 95½ billion revenue passenger miles on railroads in 1944. Similarly, passenger travel by
intercity bus more than doubled between 1940 and 1943, when miles
traveled reached a peak of nearly 28 billion. By 1955, however,
railroad passenger miles had declined to 29 billion, approximately
the passenger load in 1941, and the comparable figure for intercity
buses was 25 billion.
Revenue passenger miles for scheduled air carriers grew rapidly
in the forties from 1.2 billion miles in 1940 to 10.2 billion in 1950.
By 1957, when revenue passenger miles approximated 32 billion, it
was estimated that the airlines' share of domestic travel was
greater than that of the railroads.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

The conclusion of World War II released a pent-up demand for
consumer durable goods not obtainable during hostilities. Increased buying power enabled a high proportion of urban workers
to buy automobiles as well as homes on convenient credit terms.
Migration to semirural and s uburban areas, which had been checked
by restrictions on home construction and by other controls during
the war, was resumed at an accelerated rate. (See chapter III.)
Production remain ed high and, although em ployment declined and
prices advanced apace with wages as wartime controls on both
were lifted, tax reductions brought increases in spendable earnings.
Savings accumulated during the war and allowances granted to
World War II veterans provided the remaining essential for a big
expansion in the durable goods market. Automobile manufacturers returned to car production, and during 1946-55 they produced almost 51 million passenger automobiles. Scrappage of
prewar models tripled and, in that 10-year period, an estimatea
26½ million were dumped on the scrap heap.
Consumers bought an unprecedented number-61/,q million-of
new automobiles in 1950, as fear of shortages during the Korean
hostilities spurred replacement of pre-World War II cars. In 1950,
prices paid for new cars averaged about $2,200, compared with
$700 for a used car. Five years later, new car purchases hit their
peak; over 7 million new automobiles rolled onto our highways.
The average new car buyer paid about $2,940 for his car in 1955.
The majority of these cars had 8-cy!inder motors, automatic transmissions, radios, and heater-defrosters. The average price paid
for a used car in 1955 had risen less sharply-to $780. By this
time, the average age of cars being sent to scrap piles had risen to
13 years, twice that of cars taken off the road 25 years earlier.
Car s discarded in 1955 had run 3 times as many miles as the
average car junked in 1930, so that the cost per mile of car acquisition had declined in spite of substantial increase in their prices.

Growth in Use of Credit
Both rising auto prices and increased use of credit for the purchase of cars are reflected in the rapid growth of installment
credit. The pre-World War II peak in auto installment credit
outstanding occurred in 1941, when it totaled approximately $2.5
billion, or about two-fifths of the total installment credit outstanding. (See table 18, p. 190.) Installment purchasing rose rapidly
after the war * and, in 1956, outstanding automobile installment
• Installm ent credit outsta ndin g increased much less r a pidly w h en v iewed as a percentage of
income. Disposable p ersonal income rose (without price a djustment) fro m $83 billion in 1929
to $287 billion in 1956.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


T An r,E 18.-

Proportfon of consumer i nstallment credit re prese nted by automobile
paper, selected dates, 1929-56

N u mber of
At end of-

family unit s

(t housands)

1929 . .....••..... . •...•... .. ... . . . .••.. . -. ······
19:JO ••. • .• ••.•.•• ••...•• • ....•. ··• •• •· •·• · •·•· •
1940 ...... ···· · ········ ···· ·· ········· . ..... ... .
1941. • .. .. • .... .. ....... - ......• ••••... ...•.. ...

1948 . .. . .. .. . . . .... ... .... -· . . ......... ... ..... .
1950 . • .. . • .. ..• •••.• .• •.•...•.•. •.. •• • •• • • • ••••.

1951.. . . .... ... . ...... ... .. .....•.•.. . . . .. . . ....
1952 . .. .. •.....• . .... ............. ···· · · · •- • ·

1953 . ... . ...... . .... ... .. . ... . ······ · · ··· ···· .. .
195'1. . ........... ....... .•........•.... ···· ·· · ·
1955 .. ... ••.. ····• · · · · · ··•·• ··· · .... • ......• . - ..

1956 ..... .. ... .. ... .... .... •.. ... .... . ... . .....


eredit out•
st an ding
(mi llions)

(' )
27, 980

$3. 15 1

32. 166

5,5 14


39, 929
41 , 934
42, 843

15. 294
31, 552

Automobile in sta llment
cred it ou tst andin g

A mount
(million s)

P ercent of
::ill con su mer
installmen t
credi t


3, 01 8

7. i33
9, 809
13. 468
14, 436

43. 9
36. 7
37. 6
40. 4
33. 5
41. 3
39. 9
42. 8
41. 6
46. 4

45. 8

Kot available .

Credit data- Federal Reser ve Dulletln , J une 1955 (pp. 638 a nd 690) an d October 1956 (p. 1108) :
Survey of Cu rrent B us iness, F ebru ar y 1957; pop ulat ion data- CT. S. B u reau o f the Census, Cens uses of
Populatio n and Current Populat ion R eport 8, Series P - 20, various dates.

credit was about $14½ billion, or almost one-half of all such credit
in force. Part of this increase was, of course, due to the growth
of the population.
Increased reliance on credit is, however, demonstrated in annual
surveys of consumer finances for the Board of Governors of the
Federal Reserve System. In 1948, 39 percent of car purchases involved the use of credit, while 59 percent were purchased by full
payment in cash. For new cars, the comparable figures were 33
and 66 percent, and for used car s, 42 and 55 percent. By 1955,
both new and used car purchases were financed in an approximate
ratio of 60 percent with cr edit and 40 with cash. (See table 19,
p. 191.)
The role of installment credit has been especially significant in
the buying of cars by wage earners a nd ordinary salaried employees. In early 1956, about 33 percent of all car-owning "spending units" had automobile indebtedness.* The comparable proportions of workers compreh ended within the definition of city
worker s used in this volume were as follows:
P e rce nt 1tavi11,1

Occupational cateoory

auto111obile indcbtc(/11css

Clerical and sales_____ __________ ___________________________
Skilled a nd semiskilled _______ __ ____________________________
Unskilled and service------------------- ··- --- --------------


• A spending unit is defined as all persons li v ing in the same dwelling and belonging to the
same family who pool their incomes to meet their major expenses.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


19.- Consumers' method of financing automolrile pu rchases, selected years,
P ercent
l ti'JJL

-~l~~I ~




i i










Al l famili, •s ____ ___ ____ _ __ _ ---------- - -Far11i liL'S ow □ i n g nutomobilL'::-i _ .





.:\II p:i,:;;.s1•ng-er car liuyl'rs _____ _______ __


Full cash'-- -- -- - --- -I nstallment cred it; other borrowi ng___ _
.' \tiw c~i r t,11 y l~rs _____ _ __ _

Full cash' -- -- - -- ---- --- --·---·· . ln stu.llmcnt credit ; other borrowing

Used car buyers . . _
Full cash' -- -----· ___
l11 stallmcnt credit; other l>orrowi11g





















ii )()





1 l11clulling tra,lc-in allowa1 1cc.

l' \OTE: Pcrccrnagcs do not uJU to 100, bcC'ause ioformatiou un method of financi ng was not ob1aincd in
as mall number of cases.
SouRrn : Statistical Abstract of the United States: 1957 (LI. S. B ureau of the c,,usus, citing Board of
Governors of F ederal R t!serve System, Su rveys of Consumer Finances), p. 555.

Family Expenditures
The most recent comprehensive survey of expenditures by wage
earners and clerical workers-conducte d by BLS in 1950-indicates the degree to which transportation has become a priority
item in the family budget. In that year, families allotted to transportation about 1 out of every 7 dollars expended-more than
they spent for clothing and less than the outlays only for food
and for total shelter costs. Travel expense was reported in 1950
by at least 9 out of 10 families in all but the lowest income class.
Even among families at that level (under $1,000), 78 percent
reported some travel expense and 16 percent had automobiles_ At
least two-thirds of the fami lies with annual incomes above $3,000
reported automobi le expenses; so did almost one-half of those
within the $2,000-$3,000 range, as shown in table 20, p. 192.
The 1950 study indicates clearly that workers in the West devoted
a greater proportion of their total expenditures to transportation
than those living in northern or southern areas. Expenditures in
the North were lower than those in the South, a reflection of
greater reliance in northern cities on public transportation faci lities and the relatively greater inconvenience of the automobile in
densely populated metropolitan areas. The South fell midway
in the range, largely because of less adequate public transportation, but also because fewer people lived in densely populated
areas. Higher incomes in the West, better access to varied recre-
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


20.-Percent of wage-earner and clerical-worker Jami /ifs reporting e:r penditures for automobile and other travel and transportation, by income class, 1950


Percent of families reporting ex pend iture forJn come f'lass

Travel nnd , __ _ __ __
tion, total Operation
Purch m•f'

Oth er
travel aud

U nder $1,000 __ _____ __ ____ __ __ -------- -- -- - - _- --- -- - ---











un der
und er
und er

$2,000-- -- --------------- -----------$3,000 -- - --- - - - -- ---- - --------------$4,000 ---- -- --- ---- ---------- --- --- -- - $5,()()()_ _______________________________







$5,000 and under $6,000 --- - - - --- - - - ------ ---- - --- -- --$6,000 and und er $7,500 -- - - ----- - - - - -- - ---- - - -- --- - - -- - $6,500 and under $10,000 -------------$10,000 and o ver _____ ____ -- - ---- -- ---------------------





Sou ncE; D criveU fro m St uUy of Cousumer J~x pcnclitures, lu comes and Savings: S tatistica l Tahlcs ,
Urban U. S.- 1950 (Un iversity of l 'cll!lsylvania, 1057) , Volume XV III, table 4-10.

ation and vacation spots, greater distances, and the tendency of
newer cities in the West to grow horizontally rather than vertically, account for the high proportion of automobile ownership in
western urban areas and the largest expenditures for transportation.
The 1950 expenditure data also show clearly that a majority of
workers, regard less of region, city size, or occupational class, spent
more on the automobile than on public carriers. Expenditures on
automobiles and their operation accounted for no less than 73 percent of total transportation expenses for unskilled workers in
large northern cities, and ranged as high as 96 percent for skilled
workers in small western cities.
The acquisition of an automobile represented 56 percent of a ll
automobile travel costs reported by urban workers in 1950.
Greater relative expenditures for acquisition as against the cost
of operation were evident in the higher income classes, where the
multi-car family is probably more usual and more fam ilies may
purchase new rather than used cars.
Among white-collar and skilled wage-earner families, the proportions reporting automobile ownership ranged from 97 percent
of the skilled workers in the suburbs of western cities to 52 percent of the clerical and sales workers in large southern cities.
(See table 21.) Ownership was consistently higher among skilled
workers even in classes of cities where their average income was
less than white-collar income. Skilled workers' families more
often had 2 or more cars and were more apt to have bought a used
car than the white-collar families. Except for southern cities,
more than half of the semiskilled reported ownership of auto192
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


21.- P ercent of wage-earner and clerical-worker famili es owning automobiles, by occupation of f am ily head, JD,;O
P ercent of c lerica l. and sales work e rs

ow nmg-

C lass or cit y and
geographic region

Any a utomobiles

2 or m ore
a utom obiles



wage earn ers I
I Percent or semiskHlect

Pt~rccnt of s killed waic earners

Automo- I; .\ 11y a1J10l) iles pur- I mo biJt,s
chased new

2 or more


A utomo-

l>il cs pur-

I An y automobiles

chase<I nc"·i

1 2 or more

Percent of unskilled wage earne rs

Aut omo- I Any au to -


bi les pm-


chased ne w


2 or more
autorn o-


A ntomol; ilcs purchased new

Large c ities ________

Su bur bs _______ __ ____
Small cities . __ ___ __
So uth :
L a , gc cities ____ ____
Suburbs . __ __________
Small cities ------\\' est:
L a rge cities _______
Suburhs ____ _________
Small cities __ _______













































































SOt' RCE: Stud y or Consumer Expendit ures, Incomes a nd Sa,-ings: Statistie,11 Tables, t:r ban U.S. ~ 1950 (Uni\·ersity of Pennsylvania, 1957), Volume X\" 11 , table 7- 1.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



mobiles. For the unski lled groups, the proportion reporting
automobile ow nership varied from 22 percent in large southern
cities to 61 percent in western suburbs.
How the workers' families used their cars is suggested by a
study of the B ureau of Public Roads on motor vehicle use in 17
States in the period 1951- 54, which showed that as much as 43.6
percent of automobile travel related to earning a living. Trips
to and from work accounted for 25.6 percent and use in related
business activities for 18 percent. Social and r ecreational us e
approximated one-third. Skilled, semiskilled, and unskilled workers devoted more travel to back-and-forth-to-work and social and
recreational p urposes , and also to "family business," than did
clerical and sales workers. The latter used automotive transportation to a much greater degree in the conduct of their work. (See
table 22, below.)
TAn LF; 22.-1"\fotor vehicle vse m

17 S tales for selected occupations nf principal
operator, 195 i-54
Pncentagc of milragr dr ivrn by-


Store an d
offi ce clerks,
salrsmen ,
(rxclurli n g
sn!Psmen )

All purposr s ____ _
Earning a li vi ng ____ ___ _____________ _
To a nd from work _______________ __

100. 0

100. 0

43. 6

51. 5
29. ,5

R rlatt>d hu.-;i ,wss __ ________ ______ __
Family businrss ___ _____ _______ _____ __
Educatio nal, civi c, a nd religious __ ____ _
Socia l n. nd recrra ti onaL ____ ___ _______ __

18. 0
17. S

Pur pose of tra vcl

Oprr ath·r s,~ - - - - -Tra\·c,\ing

Cr:1fts mr n , sPmis ki\h•d
fo rcmrn ,
wor kers ,
s k ill ed
unsk il lr d
work ers
work ers , am
labo rers

s:1IPsmen ,
:1g1. nts

~ - - ---:-

25. r,

3. 1
3b. I

12. 6
2. 2
33. I


100. 0
4fi. 0
;ir;. 0
0. I
14. 4

100. ll
4:1. 8
3-1. 7
0. 1
17. 4
2. 3

2. 0
:17. 5

;J(i. 2

. 1


100. 0
i5. fi

24, 1
51. 5

5. 4
18. 2

SO URCE: Unp uhlished data from the Bu reau of l'u bl ic Roads, basrd on annu al s t udi rs of motor vrhic1e
conducted in Ii States (Ark an sas, Cali fornia, Iowa, K en t u cky, J,011is inna, ~ f ississ ipp i. l\Tissou r i, i\1on•
tan a, N pw l'vfcx ico, Nort h D ako t a, Okla homa. O rego n , r cn nsy l q1ni a. So ut h D :-tko ta, \V :.1s hington, \ Visconsin, \\'yom ing:).

New Problems of Extensive Automobile Ownership
The acquisition of automobiles by most American familie s has,
in conjunction with other developments on the American scene,
introduced new problems or aggravated old ones. Increased population densities in metropolitan areas which formerly were quiet
suburban communities, extensive decentralization of industry,
mass production of housing, insufficient off-street parking coupled
with inadequate advance planning for roads and highway systems
of sufficient capacity: such circumstances account for traffic congestion which, according to business and automotive groups as
reported by The New York Times, costs around $5 billion
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

annually.' Public officials and traffic engineers are also concerned
with the necessity for developing more adequate traffic control
programs and devices to reduce the heavy accident rate associated
with automobiles, which the National Safety Council estimated
would account in 1956 for an economic loss of approximately $5
billion. 8
The $33.8 billion Federal road-aid plan which became effective in
July 1956 was designed to provide 41,000 miles of new or improved
roads, with about half the funds scheduled for urban roads. The
program was initially planned for completion in 13 years, but rising
costs and other problems may postpone completion. Passenger
cars are expected to number 100 million by 1975, compared with
54 million in 1955, with mileage driven expanding about 35 percent. The increase in highway mileage under the new program
would be much less proportionately, compared with the 2.5 million
miles of public surfaced roads in 1955. As The New York Times
pointed out, "the immensity of the roadbuilding needs can be
gaged by noting that since 1946 only 53,000 miles of lanes have
been added to our road system, while the auto maker s were turning
out 200,000 miles of vehicles, bumper to bumper."
The rapidly accelerated use of automobiles, on progressively
inadequate streets, roads, and highways, for conveyance to and
from work, for leisure-time activities, and for recreation, as well
as the expansion of trucking, has added new complications to both
suburban and urban living. The clogged roads have reduced the
value of the shorter work schedules and have increased travel costs.
Despite these disadvantages, the worker prefers the car to public
transportation, which, though cheaper, frequently offers poor service, uncertain schedules, and excessive crowding. The value of
more flexible use of leisure and the greater freedom to choose pursuits are evidently regarded by most of the population as advantages outweighing annoyances accompanying car ownership and
In some respects, the motor car has replaced apparel and other
consumer goods as a demonstration of "conspicuous consumption."
Manufacturers provide glamorous vehicles with swank fittings,
powerful engines, and a variety of equipment that sometimes add
less to efficient transportation than to display. The American
market for the small car is expanding and th ere are indications
that American manufacturers are looking toward a coming market,
but they have not announced plans for mass production of a
small, economy car. 0
One final observation seems pertinent. The extensive ownership
of automobiles may be symbolic of an equalizing process apparent
in this country. The distinction between economic levels in the
471141 - 5!)~
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



ownership of tangibles is diminishing. This is true in homeownership, in household equipment, in apparel, and in automobiles.
Certainly the automobile has aided wage earners and others in
narrowly circumscribed environments in breaking down the barriers of community and class by giving them opportunities for
travel, wide-ranging recreation, and broadened acquaintance and
outlook. The automobile has also made possible a new freedom
and range of choice of places of residence and types of work.


The quoted matter in the first two paragraphs is from J. Frederic Dewhurst and A ssocia tes, America's Needs and Resources, A New Survey (New
York, The Twentieth Century Fund, 1955), p. 283, citing I-I. P. Maxim,
Horseless Carriage Days (New York, Harper, 1937); Motor, October 1905,
p. 37, and Ma y 1909, p. 33; and Editorial, Engi1wering News Record, May 16,
1912, pp. 103, 937.
2 Cost of L iving
in Americcm Towns, Board of Trade of Great Britain
(London, 1911), p. 103.
41st Annnal Report on the Statistics of Labor, 1910, Massachusetts Bureau
of Statistics ( Boston, 1911) , p. 233.
4 Automotive News, October
8, 1956, p. 37, quoting from Rambler Magazine, 1905.
• Fam ily E:i:penditures ·i n Selected Cities, 1935- 3(], Vol. VI: Travel and
Tra nsvortation, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Bulletin 648, p. 3.
6 Faith M. Williams and Alice
C. Hanson, Money Disbursements of Wage
Earnei·s ancl Clerical Workers, 1934-36, Smnmary Volume, U.S. Bureau of
Labor Statistics Bulletin 638, p. 41.
1 The New York
Times, January 28, 1957.
8 Thi s estimate, which appeared
in Accident Facts, 1.957 Edition (pp. 13
and 41), is somewhat lower than the $6.5 billion annual economic loss attributed to automobile accidents by the Association of Casualty and Surety
Companies (in Th e New York Times issue of January 28, 1957).
Aftet· this chapter h ad been set in type, it was reported that the three
major auto produce r s were likely to include a so-called "compact" car in their
1960 model lines. (See Why Smaller Cars Are Coming, in Business Week,
Janua ry 17, 1959, p. 29.)

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Time for Living
A well-balanced preservation of the faculties of
rnan requires that he give hirnself periodically to
physical and intellectual exercises essentially distinct frorn work.
-Carle C. Zimmerman and Merle E. Frampton.

Perhaps no single feature of the worker's level of living in the
United States better illustrates its spectacular improvement during
the last half century than the expansion and profitable utilization
of his leisure time. Since 1900, technological advances and the
mechanization of industry have made possible the 8-hour day, the
long weekend, and the vacation with pay.
Workers generally have eagerly taken advantage of their added
leisure time to improve their surroundings, extend their education, develop their hobbies, participate in community affairs,
enjoy sports, and generally fulfill their cultural desires. Some of
them, on the other hand, have turned into "moonlighters," getting a
second job, usually part-time, to increase their income.
The Workweek

In 1900, the 10-hour day, 6-day week was not uncommon. And
such important continuous process industries as steel manufacturing opera_ted clay and night, with the 24 hours divided between two shifts.
Agitation for the 8-hour day, which unions had begun late in
the 19th century, continued throughout the first decade of the
20th century. The argument that, with a 10-hour day, accumulated
fatigue, and often boredom, reduced the workers' efficiency and
lowered their output seemed to be the most pertinent and effective,
especially in respect to the continuous-operation industries. However, rising productivity was probably the prime factor that made
the 8-hour day possible. Also, it eventually became recognized
generally that workers occupied for the most part with strenuous
toil or rest from it were not good customers for the products of
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


SMALL FRY ON PLEASURE BE.NT- Joy is for children, be it on weekly
excursion to so me di stant picnic spot, or daily in the pool in their own backyard. Over the past 50 years, a big- gain for city workers' children h as been
the accessibility of recreational facilities.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

their efforts. In 1926, when Henry Ford announced the 5-day
week for his company, he said :
The industry of this country could not long exist if factories
generally went back to the 10-hour day, because the people would
not have the time to consume the goods produced. For instance, a
workman would have little use for an automobile if he had to be in
the shops from dawn to dusk. And that would react in countless
directions, for the automobile, by enabling people to get about
quickly and easily, gives them a chance to find out what is going
on in the world-which leads them to a larger life that requires
more food, more and better goods, more books, more music-more
of everything. 1

Th ese various influences combined to effect a gradual reduction
in scheduled hours. By 1929, the 8-hour day was prevalent in
manufacturing, mining, and railroading, but the workweek usually
was spread over 6 days. The trend toward a 5-day week had been
developing rapidly in th e 1920's in some industries, particularly
men's clothing and the building trades. But in 1931 a Department
of Labor survey showed that in United States industries as a whole
only 6 percent of the employees were enjoying a 2-day weekend.
By the time of the depression of the 1930's, the 8-hour day was
quite widely accepted as the standard among industries, with the
apparent exception of the steel mills. During the depression, the
workday and the workweek were shortened, often as a device for
spreading work; but, as the economy recovered, it appeared that
the 8-hour day was optimum for most of industry. A workweek of
five 8-hour days became widespread with the passage of th e Fair
Labor Standards Act of 1938, requiring the payment of premium
rates for work exceeding- 40 hours a week in employment subj~ct
to the act.
During World War II, of course, work schedules were lengthened-commonly to 6 days of 8 or 9 hours-to meet war production needs. Since then, weekly hours of factory production workers
have averaged about 40, although they rose somewhat during the
Korean conflict and turned downward during the economic recessions of 1948-49, 1953-54, and 1957-58.
Along with the general establishment of shorter working hours,
the movement for paid vacations for workers gained favor,
althou gh progress was slow. As late as 1920, a survey of 63 manufacturing concerns showed that 36 did not give vacations to workers paid on an hourly, daily, or piecework basis. Five allowed
vacations without pay, 1 gave vacations with half pay, and only
11 provided vacation time with full pay. Interviews with those
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


employers granting paid vacations showed in general that they
regarded vacations as a good investment because employees returned in better h ealth and spi1·its and with greater enthusiasm
for the job. Another survey of 624 manufacturing plants made in
the same year showed that white-collar employees fared better
than factory workers. Eighty-five percent of the plants granted
paid vacations to clerical workers, but only 18 percent to wage
earners. At the time of these surveys, emphasis on the wage rate,
rather than supplementary benefits, characterized the bargaining
demands of unions representing wage earners. In the period durin g and following World War II, fringe benefits, including paid
vacations, more and more became major subjects of collective
bargaining. Nearly 85 percent of about 1,500 collective bargaining agreements examined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in
1948-49 stipulated 2 or more weeks as the maximum vacation
time; over 30 percent specified a maximum of more than 2 weeks,
usually for longer-service employees.
By 1957, according to a similar study, 86 percent of the agreements (as contrasted with about 30 percent 9 years earlier) called
for more than 2 weeks, with 20 percent providing 4 weeks.

The amount of leisure time spent in retirement has also risen
appreciably. In 1900, a man 60 years old could expect to live until
he was 74, and to retire at age 71. In 1950, he could anticipate
living unti l he reached 75, but he would probably retire at the
age of 69. Much of the 3 additional years in retirement co ul d be
credited to the development of old-age insurance under the social
security system and to the preYalence of private pension schemes
which gave workers economic security to retire before they were
forced to do so by illness or disability. In 1955, some 47 million
nonfarm workers were employed in jobs covered by old-age and
survivors insurance in a typical quarter, and over 7 million were
covered by collectively bargained pension plans.

Increase in Free Time
Thus, during our century the workers' gains in free time for
living are momentous. Workers now work not far from 20 hours
less each week than their grandfathers did at the century's beginning. In addition, they 1have 2 fu ll days free as a ru le and, if they
must work on Saturday or Sunday, they are usuall y paid at premium rates or get equivalent time off on other days. Furthermore,
they are generally eligible for paid vacations and several paid
holidays. Finally, instead of having to work until no longer able

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

to do so, workers can now retire while active; and, living longer,
they have added years of leisure in retirement.
Workers' families, too, have gained free time. Women are now
more often employed outside their homes, but they spend less time
at their household clbores than their mothers or grandmothers, and
children begin work at a much later age. (For fuller discussion,
see chapter IV.)
Looking ahead toward the possible further shortening of working hours in the new age of automation and atomic energy, many
unions have tried to ascertain the wishes of their membership on
the scheduling of leisure time. For example, the Oil, Chemical, and
Atomic Workers in 1957 asked members whether they would prefer shorter daily hours, fewer workdays per week, occasional 3-day
weekends, longer vacations, or a combination of these alternatives.
Most members who replied favored an extra day off weekly. The
main reason given was that cutting the hours of work per day
would not help as much as an extra clay off, because so many
workers spend considerable time traveling to and from work daily.
There was sentiment expressed also for a 4-day week with Wednesdays off to shop. Most men, said one union member, "never go
shopping because they are so busy weekends fishing, wo1·king on
the car, around the yard, and so fol'th."

Naturally, the workers of 50 years ago had to be content with
much more modest opportunities for entertainment and recreation
than their grandchildren, who have the advantages not only of
far more free time and more buying power but also of more
mobility and more varied attractions. Comparison is difficult because of the astonishing variety of choices open to the worker
and also because it is almost impossible to measure the amount
and quality of leisure-time activities which workers' families enjoy,
even at a particular point in time. Moreover, statistics on the subject are much more comprehensive now than then. At best we can
outline only the main activities and trace the most pronounced
Today, American workers devote a sizable share of their leisure
time to sports, both as participants and as spectators, and to other
outdoor activities, many of which were the exclusive province of
the "idle rich" in 1900. Moreover, much of the workers' leisure
time is absorbed by the movies, radio, and television-all mediums
of entertainment which were virtually undreamed of in 1900. Yet
they have time to spare for furthering their education, participating in civic affairs, entertaining friends, reading which goes far
beyond the "escapist" detective thriller or western story, engaging
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


in "do-it-yourself" projects, and traveling on weekends or during
the annual vacation.
American workers in 1900 exhibited a much more restricted
pattern of leisure-time activities.
In the early years of the century, in many neighborhoods, the
music hall variety show was the popular form of entertainment.
Unions, mutual aid societies, and clubs also provided a friendly and
relaxed atmosphere. Church-sponsored suppers, picnics, and
social "get togethers" were favorite pastimes. The neighborhood
saloon, though much con demned for other reasons, in many communities provided a place for conversation and entertainment.
Inexpensive amusement was found in billiard halls, bowling
alleys, shooting galleries, and skating rinks. Trolley-car rides
in to the country and occasional excursions to the seashore or
other resorts were popular. Many families had pianos, accordions,
player pianos, or phonographs, and music was a key attraction
at social gatherings. The Sunday band concerts in the park were
also a popular form of diversion.
These organizational, ceremonia l, home-centered, and kindred
forms of entertainment were generally the only ones workers and
their fami lies could afford. In fact, they were the only ones that
were available in most communities.
The first decade of the century saw the spectacular rise of the
motion picture. It was preceded by the penny arcade "peep show" ;
then came the nickelodeon, offering short historical and travel
topics and occasionally comedy; gradually there developed feature
pictures with plot and stor y. By 1908, there were approximately
800 to 1,000 nickelodeons in New York City a lone. Workers
stopped on the way home from work for a 15-minute show and
children pleaded for nickels to go to the "flickers."
In those early days also, vaudeville, which developed out of the
less refined entertainment of the music hall variety show, offered
music, plays, and comedy. Burlesque, which arose as a lower
cost variety of va udeville, has served, nevertheless, to provide the
entertainment world with such top stars as Will Rogers, Bert
Lahr, Phil Silvers, and Fanny Brice.
One of the most colorful of all entertainment media was the
circus, which reached its apex under Barnum and Bailey and the
Ringling Brothers. But despite its strong appeal, the circus has
been losing ground since 1930, and today, even in some large communities, the traveling circus-like the "nickel beer"- is becoming
only a nostalgic memory.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

GOOD MUSIC FOR ALL- The band of earlier days supplied background
music to social gossip and a stroll in the park. The hi ghly developed pu bl ic
address system of modern days holds s ilent a much larger aud ience indoors.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Baseball by 1900 had become an integral part of American life.
The improvement of transportation brought larger numbers of
fans from all parts of the surrounding area to the ball park. Personal interest in teams and players, coupled with hero worship of
colorful individua ls like Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb, was highlighterl
by radio broadcasts which gave millions of enthusiasts an opportunity to follow the game play by play, and intensified the desire to
see the action in person.
Football and basketball also became popular sports. Originally
high school and college sports events patronized largely by students
and al umni , both games are now played professionally as well and
rival baseball in attendance by the genera l public.
An upswing in spo rts participation, as distinguished from spectator attendance, was in line with emphasis on "active" leisure.
Hunting, fishing, boating, and camping boomed. Nonteam sports
like golf and tennis attracted increasing numbers of devotees from
lower income groups . Swimming has approached the status of a
universal pastime. Public pools have been established in the city
proper and cooperatively owned community swimming pools are
scattered through suburban areas. Amateur baseball leagues of
varied sponsorship, drawing participants from a broad cross section of the population, abound.
These trends appear to be competing ·w ith the older industrial
recreation programs which flourished in the period beLween the
two world wars. A Labor Department study of 51 companies in
1913 showed that 53 percent maintained recreation programs.
Another study in 1916-17 showed that 152 of 431 establishments reporting, or 35 percent, had fac ilities for indoor recreation such
as poolrooms, gymnasiums, clubhouses. Slightly over half provided for social gathe1 ·ings, lectures, and music for employees.
Fifty percent provided some outdoor recreation.
Industrial recreation probably reached its peak in the dep1·ession years and declined somewhat in relative importance thereafter with the moYement to the subUl"bs and the attendant lure
of other plll"suits. But the bowling league, the company baseball
team, and the annual company outing attest to the continued existence of recreation associated with employment. Some industrial
concerns maintain elaborate recreational programs charncterized
by vigorous employee participation.


It was not until after World War I that the automobile began to
play an important role in shaping the spa1·e-time activities of
workers. (See chapter VIII for transportation developments.)
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Rapidly increasing numbers of workers began to discover recreational uses of t he automobile. Short drives to cool off on a hot
summer evening, the Sunday trip into the country, and the vacation tour rapidly replaced or supplemented such forms of recreational activity as trolley rides, strnlling in the park, or bicycling.
Many homes accepted tourists as overnight guests. Tourist cabins and roadside restaurants began to spring up, foreshadowing
the spectacular motel boom of t he current decade. The motorized
holiday began to assume large proportions during the 1920's; surveys in several States indicated that over 50 percent of all automobile use was for social and recreational purposes.

Public Recreation Facilities
At the turn of the century, many large cities had begun to provide public playgrounds, and the movement gained rapid headway
after 1906, when the ational Recreation Association was organized. By 1912, supervised public playground activities were
being directed by over 5,000 paid supervisors, and t his n umber
grew rapidly to almost 60,000 by 1950. During t he depression
years of the 1930's, community recreation faci lities were extended
considerably under government auspices, and thousands of camps,
picnicking grounds, trails, swimming pools, tennis courts, and recreation buildings were constructed. The growth in the number of
selected facilities and personnel in municipal r ecreation from
1920 to 1950, shown in the following tabulation, attests to the vigor
with which American communities met the expanding demand
for leisure-time play facilities.
Faci li ties and person nf'l

- - -- - - -- -- - - - -- -- - - - Base ball diamonds . . _. __ . .. ... . _
Bathing beaches . . ... .. . .. . .... .. . . . .. .
Golf courses .. ..... ··--•·
H a ndball cou rts . . . . ··-·- - --·-

- --



- --

- - - - --

4, 322

3, 90-1


5i 2


2, iJ 7

(i i:.!

1. i tiU

I. 91\3

3, 981i

ti, lj;iU

] , 200
12. Oi5

l.lil ti
13. 08,1

3 14

21i 8

r aid leaders . . . . .. . . _ ···• -• · _. . .
Volun teerleaders . . ... - · ···· ·--

24, 533

:i~. 029


[i'l. H82

2, 9 1'2

7, :ou


10, 218

l ,!}.1:i

3, 274
14, 7"7

l co s kati ng areas __ ______ ___ ____ _

Outdoor playgroun cls . . -.. -•- · ··
R ecreation b ui lclings . . ___ _
Indoor recreation centers ___ ____ __
Stadi ums _··· · ···· ·· ···· · - -- - -·-•· ...
Swimming pools ..... . .
_____ _____ __ _
Tennis courts ________ ___ __ ____ __ _
T oboggan slides . . .... . •-·· ·-- •-··· . · · ·-- -- •• • - •··· . .

,), .',02

9, 92 1

l ,IJ.1 2
X. 422
22 1

2•1, !),19
S,2 lfi


1 Excludes lcack rs µaid with Fl' Ll i..' ral l'llll'rgency fun d::; .
SOU RC E: R eports to the Nationa l Rccrention A ssociation, as p ub li shr d in A merica's Nrt'd S a nd
Resources: A New Sur vey, by J. Frederick D cwhu r~t and A ssociates (N1•w ·fork , T he T wPn t ic th

Century F und , 1055).

Keeping pace with the development of playg-rouncl areas was
the creation of public parks in most large cities. By 1902, almost
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


800 cities had made a beginning at providing parks where urban
dwellers could enjoy the "rural, sylvan, and natural scenery."
City planners rapid ly expanded municipal park acreage and facilities throughout the country. By 1950, an estimated 700,000
acres of park lands were in use in urban areas, and additional
ac1·es of forest preserves and recreation areas were within easy
access to city dwellers. The National Park Service in 1956 operated 26 national pa1·ks comprising nearly 11 mi llion acres of land
and 4 recreation areas totaling over 2 million acres. In addition,
there were over 2,000 State parks embracing over 5 million acres.
In spite of this remarkable development of rec1·eational facilities, millions of mban and subm·ban children still do not have
adequate play areas, and adult demand for time on municipal golf
courses and tennis courts cannot be satisfied. Public beaches are
crowded and highways are choked with cars. Partly offsetting
these inadequacies, the worker's home, once again, has become an
important recreational center. As suburban communities continue their spectacular development, interest and active participation in community and church affairs take a growing share of
the worker's leisure time. Furthermore, growing suburban communities are devoting more attention to planning for adequate
recreational facilities and park lands.

Workers and Community Affairs. There are many signs of growing wage-earner participation in community affairs. For example,
the AFL-CIO has established a community services program with
a national staff, 125 full-time community workers, and 25,000
trained counselors-volunteers who advise workers on their personal problems. This activity benefits not only union members
and their fami lies, but other members of the community as well,
particulal'ly in meeting special health, welfare, educational, and
recreational needs. Moreover, it has helped to promote a greater
sense of civic awareness and citizenship responsibility on the part
of wage earners. Recently a union official declared that
"trade unionists are on social agency boards that nm the gamut of
the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts right up to the board of directol'S of the American Red Cross." 2 Another pointed out that union
members are participating in such volunteer activities as raising
funds for service agencies in their communities, contributing labor
to building hospitals and fire stations, and aiding disaster relief.
Various unions have been operating rest homes, summer camps,
and musical programs and otherwise taking measures to meet the
1·ecreational and related needs of members and their families. In
recent years, one of the best-known union efforts in the entel'tainment field has been the New York Philharmonic's tour of steel towns
under the sponsorship of the United Steelworkers of America.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

The United Automobile Workers recently sponsored a choral
gro up in the Detroit area as a community activity open to all
residents of the area with the requisite talent. It was emphasized
that the choral group would provide an outlet for increased leisure.
The male chorus of the Homestead Steel Works-an organization
composed mainly of plant workers-has achieved considerable
fame, having appeared on national TV and rad io networks.
Radio, Television, and Music

Radio arrived as a public feature of the American scene in
1920. Receiving sets began as a do-it-yourself hobby, first with
crystal and earphones, then with tubes, coils, condensers, and battery. Many an amateur radio builder experienced the thrill of
hearing the first crackle and sputterings of a far distant station
through his homemade creation. By 1927, although the industry
was still experimenting both with reception and transmission, 732
broadcasting stations were in existence and the first network broadcast of a symphony had been mad e. About 30 percent of Ameriican homes had radios, compared with 40 percent owning phonographs, which with pianos had long provided musical entertainment
in the home.
Th e manufacture of relative ly inexpensiYe radio r eceivers in
the following years made rad io avai lable to a ll, ancl in the early
1940's, when wartime restrictions and production for military
use prevented further expansion, about 4 out of every 5 American
homes had radio service. After World War II, it was an unusual household that did not have at least one radio in the home,
and many had one in the fami ly car as well. Roughly a third of
the programs offered to radio listeners in the early postwar years
included mysteries, situation comedies, and drama. Variety shows
represented over 20 percent of listening time; music, 20 percent;
news and commentators, 20 percent; and auclience participation
and quiz programs, the balance.
In the late 1920's, the radio threatened the phonograph with
virtual exti nction, and cut deeply into expenditures for pianos and
other musical instruments. A study made by Business Week, comparing the distribution of the "recreation dollar" in 1919 and
1929, showed a startling shift to radio over the 10-year period,
and a corresponding decrease in the proportion allotted to phonographs and musical instruments.
The subsequent deYelopment of the electric phonograph, in part
as an adjunct to radio, and the stimulation of interest in music
by radio broadcasts of popular, fam iliar, and classical composi-
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


tions, revived the use of the record player. After the advent of
longer playing records in 1948, Americans looked for better and
better equipment to get the utmost in musical fidelity from an
ever-expanding selection of popular and classical recordings. By
1957, almost all major works of musical art had been superbly
recorded and record manufacturers were turning to suitable nonmusical materials to meet the demand for new recordings.
The current interest in high-fidelity phonographs, plus increasing attendance at musical performances of all kinds, indicates the
growing importance of music in leisure pursuits. In 1953, Newsweek indicated that "hi-fi" had become "big business" and predicted that annual sales would rise from $70 million to $300 million. Sales of records were expected to rise from $225 million
to $300 million.
These advances in radio and record players may also have intensified the interest in playing a musical instrument. The number of
music stores increased slightly between 1948 and 1954, and such
large numbers of teen-agers have wanted to play in a high school
band that nearly all but the smallest schools have bands or orchestras nowadays.
Television burst upon the American scene in 1948. Prewar
experimentation with receivers and telecasting, and continued
small-scale development after the war, achieved a high degree of
technical proficiency which made mass production of sets and
large-scale broadcasting possible. In 1948, nearly 1 million receivers were produced and the broadcasting stations in operation
increased from 17 to 50. In 1949, 3 million sets were produced
and 97 stations were operating on a regular program basis. In
1956, an estimated 39 million sets were in use, three-quarters of
all American households had at least one, and network broadcasts
were carried by about 500 TV stations. TV viewing had become
a major attraction.
The predominance of television as a means of occupying leisure
time was clearly shown by a 1-week survey of how people spent
their time in 1957. An estimated 75 million (out of a total
sampled population of 123 million people over 12 years of age)
averaged approximately 19 homs per person during the week in
front of the TV set. Radio came next, with 69 million listeners
averaging 14 hours per person for the week. Newspapers occupied 100 million for an average of 4 hours. Magazines were
read by 37 million, who averaged a little over 4¼ hours. Sixtyone million saw movies during the week, with the average time
of 4 hours being closer to two movies (or a double feature) than
to one.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

In the first years of television, the elaborate variety show held
first place in program preference, but outstanding sports events
were also popular. In the following years, variety shows, comedy,
drama, and news ranked high on network sched ul es and the showing of full-length movies became a stand ard feature. An increasing amount of time devoted to public events a llowed millions of
workers to witness national political conventions, Presidential inaugurations, and congressional investigating bodies in action. The
use of television by candidates campaigning for public office gave
the voting public ample chance to study both the candidates and
issues, and news commentators contributed to the educational
process. Increasing attention has been given, also, to "cultural"
programs, including grand opera, drama, and music. A beginning
has been mad e, too, in the use of television for ed ucational purposes, both by the public schools and medical schools for classroom
teaching and by a few universities fo1· adult education.

Adul t Education
The worker's horizons broadened through the advance of these
media of mass communication, of course, but that is only one aspect of the improvements in opportunities and facilities for education of the worker and his family that have taken place in the
last half century. More children go to school for a longer time,
and the level of education of the population generally has risen
remarkably. These improvements are due in large part to improvements in school facilities.
By 1900, the American free public school system was well
established, and stood as a glowing accomplishment of those in
the 19th century who struggled to achieve a public, State-supported school system, free fro m sectarian control and complete
through primary and hi gh school grades into advanced levels of
education. Night schools and extension schools formed an important part of this secondary school development.
Adult instruction in the public schools, generally in the even ings,
was a notable development of the period following World War I.
The adult education movement had Ol.'iginated in the 1830's, when
Boston and Louisville offered classes to adults. New York followed in 1847, first offering elementary courses and, toward the
end of the century, free lectures. In 1908, almost 6,000 lectures
were given on a variety of scientific and cultural subj ects. The
program had been characterized, a few years earlier, as follows:
Turning fro m the platform to the people, we notice that yo un g
men predominate, especiall y when the lecture touches some practical
art of electr icity, photography, or lithography. If the subject is
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


hi :-;Lorical or literary, the grealer part of the audi,rnc e will be youug
women, many of whom doubtless would atte nd Lhe high s chool s if
they could. 3

The lectures flourished during the early part of the century,
when immig ration was heavy. As the influx slackened, attendan ce
fe ll off, no doubt partially because the public schools and colleges
were available to a larger percentage of the young people. Also,
the establishment of vocational and commercial courses attracted
many adult stud en ts who might otherwise have attended the lectures.
Illiteracy received much attention in the first quarter of this
century. New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Boston, concerned
with thi s problem a mong both foreign and native born, established
courses in the fundamentals of reading and w1·iting. The biennial
survey of education of 1922-24 showed that over 336,000 ad ult
students were en rolled in classes for nati ve- and fore ign-born illiterat es. A number of th e fo r eign born were undoubtedly literate
in their native ton g ue but coul d not read or w1·ite English.
The social settlement or neighborhood houses (Hull House in
Chicago, for example) were not established primarily for ad ult
education, but they did make an appreciable contribution to the
education of illiterate city worker s. Cou ntl ess immigrants benefited from their classes in the English language and American
citizenship as well as music, literatu1·e, and science. Moreover ,
since they were designed prima1·ily to supply wholesome recreation
and fr iendship, the settl ements were able to offer education in a
setting more congenial than t he more restrictive atmosphere of the
p ublic schools.
Along with the fo r egoing developments, the regular public
evening sch ools hact been growing stead ily, as can be seen in the
follow ing tabulation:
Number orr' itir~ wit h
CYC' ll in g


1800 _ ----- ----- ----- - -- -l !l(M) ___ _
1!!111 ___ _

1920 __ -- _
1\131) - ---------- - --- --- --

-- -

--------------- - --- -- -- --

n. n..




3, G78
5, ll !'i
0, 32G
IS, 4Gl
24. 07 1

150, iiO
3,4, 364
1. 038. 052

SO UHCE: P art-T'ime Secondary Scl1ools, U . S . OIi ier of Education fl pports . Bulle ti n , l\J32, :\~o. li; '.\~at ion nl

Survey of Secondary Ed ucation, lVfonograph No. 3, U.S. D epartment or the I nterior, 19:J2. p. 44.

Vocational education formed an important par t of most adu lt
programs, especially after Federal aid was made available in 1918.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Total expenditures have risen from $3 million in 1918 to $165
milli on in 1955. The obvious va lue in learning and improving a
trade, accentuated by rap id chan ges in technology, has g iven 1·ise
to heavy demand for vocational courses.
In recent years, ther e has been a noticeable inCl'ease in attendance by hobby enthusiasts. Amateur woodworkers and camera
fans now attend vocational classes side by side with wou ld-be
" professionals." Housewives, too, are resorting to vocational
courses for efficiency in such homemaking arts as fancy cooking,
sewing, and home decoration. Even bridge, danci ng, and flower
arrangement appear in some curriculums.
The changi ng character and g1·0,,·ing importance of adult education is apparent in the Nationa l Education Association's concern with it. In 1921, t he NEA fo rmed a separate adu lt education department to deal \Yith the education of immigrants. This
was extended, in 1927, to include all adults, and, in 1945, it became
a separate division k nown as the Adu lt Education Service. In
1951, the Adult Education Association was established. It absorbed the membership of th e Carnegie Foundation's American
Association for Adult Education and the Adu lt Ed ucation Service
of the National Education Association.
A recent study shows that 3 million adu lts we1·e enroll ed in
public school courses in the 1952- 53 academic year . Ove1· 6,000
school districts had s uch courses. Some States, e.g., California,
a r e parti cularly active in this respect and, in the larger urban
areas, offer an amazingly va ried number of courses to adults.
Another facet of adult education is the uniYersity extension
course, aimed at cauying adults beyond the levels attainable
through public school night courses. The Univers ity of Wisconsin
has been one of the pioneers in this field, havi ng evolved, after
considerable study and analysis, a patte1·n of extension work
avai lable Lo wage ea1·ners. The program includes correspondence
courses, summer schools, extension classes, broadcasts, films, and
publi cation s. Many other universities, in va1·ying manner, have
followed the Wisconsin example. As a resu lt, brnad avenues fo r
higher education have been opened to wage earnel'S who could
not afford regular attendance at a university. H ere, too, housewives have been participating in increasing numbers, taking advantage of their leisure time to study child psychology, art appreciation, literature, and hun dreds of other subj ects.
The labor unions played a n important role in stimulating the
workers' educational movement. They took a major step in this
direction in 1921 by the formation of the Workers' Education
Bureau of America. This organization was designed to act as a
clearinghouse for educational opportunities available to workers.
471141 - G9 ~
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



Recognition by labor unions that union leaders need training
and that their members need ed ucational opportuniti es for broadening their cultural background led to the establishment of education departments in a majority of national unions. These departments now carry on continuing ed ucational prngrams through
regional and State resident schools, sectional and city-level institutions, trade council seminars, and local union classes. Educational projects conducted through these organizations include not
only labor education designed to prepare workers for active participation in union affairs, but also studies in basic economics,
consumer guidance, political cience, and social subj ects such as
intergroup relations, housing, and community service work. In
1955, unions affiliated with the American Federation of Labor
and the Congress of Inclustrial Organizations conducted or cooperated in over 150 labor institutes, conferences, and summer
schools lasting 4 days or more, and in innumerable shorter classes,
COUl'S s, and lecture eries. Increasingly, universiti es arc opening
their doors to such institutes and summer schools.
Skill training of workel'S on the job has always been an important function of management to fit workers to the particular
tasks assigned to them. Th e increasing demancl for highly skilled
workers in modern production systems has accelerated the training of employees and, since World War I, private industrial initiative has greatly extended educational opportunities in industry.
In large co1·porations, exten ivc training of workers and executives is und ertaken in the fo1·m of corporate trade and engin eering
schools to supplement the practical instruction in th e shops, and
through cooperative arrangements with technical and vocational
public schools.
Further extensions of educational benefits have been made since
the last war in the form of veterans' education. The Servicemen's
Readjustment Act contained provisions which made college ed ucation and other forms of training available to veteran s of World
War II, and the K orean GI bill of rights extended these educational advantages. Over 11 million veterans applied for these
ben fit s up to 1955. Training received in the various military
services also represents an important factor in preparing workers
for the higher skills now required by modern industry.
A number of private agencies have also contributed significantly
to ad ult education, including the settlement houses mentioned previously. One of the earl ier and more notable is the Chautauqua
movement which, in the words of its founder, was established to
extend "the p1·inciple, now so generally accepted, that education is
the privilege of all, young and old , rich and poor, that mental de-

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

velopment is only begun in school and college and should be continu ed through all of life." 4 It was responsible for initiating
three important elements in adult education: the summer school,
the conespondence school, and g uided hom e r eading. Although
Chautauqua was finally eclipsed by the increasing educational opportunities made possible through urbanization, its impact has
been pronounced.
A natural accompaniment of the increased emphasis on ed ucation was the rising pop ularity of r eading as a leisure-tim e activity.
Despite the traditional importance of r eading as a form of recreation, adequate analysis of changes in readin g tastes is not feasib le,
since they are so elusive.
The wide use of public librari es and, especiall y in r ecent decades,
Lhe amazing success of paperbound books do, however, indicate
a vigornus interest in r eading. Most of the classics, now available in this fo rm, are reaching far more people than their authors
could have imagined; and contemporary books of ser ious content,
including poetry, are in popular demand.

One other recreational bent is characteristic of American workers-th e do-it-yourself prnj ect. Men of an industrial society
with a pioneering tradition naturally fall heir to a handiness w ith
tools. Nevertheless, in recent year s, the do-it-yourself movement has become a surprising national phenomenon. The construction of radio receiving set s in the 1920's, a lready mentioned,
and the building of hi-fi system s in the 1950's serve as illu strations.
Expenditures a1·e at best inadequate meas ures of leisure-time
activities. Many important leis ure-time acti vities do not affect
consumer budgets directly. They ar e provided by governm ents at
public cost or by private institutions financed by endowments and
contributions rather than fees for services rendered. Conspicuous
among these are the vari ety of adu lt education programs. Others,
such as watching sunsets, or cat ch ing crayfish in th e local river, or
playing checkers with a neighbor, may invol ve littl e 01· no cost.
The four su n ·eys of u1·ban worke rs' expenditures by the Bureau
of Labor Statistics since 1900 do, however, demonstrate the inc1·easing importance of recreation, education, and reading. In
1901, families allotted, on t he average, 2.7 percent of their expe nd-
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


itures to these activities * (table 23, below). The ratio increased t o
3.7 percent in 1917- 19. In the m id-1930's, in spite of th e depression, employed workers were allocating 4.1 percent of their spending to leisme pursuits; by 1950, the proportion h ad risen to 5.8
percent. In Yery summary fashion, these data indicate that as
real income increased oYer the period, wage earners were inclined
to devote more to le ism·e-time act ivities.
A more revealing picture of shifts in the pattern of spending for
leisure-time activities can be found in the estimates of personal consumption ex penditures for all America n fami lies. (See
table 24, p. 215.) In 1929, whe n that statistical series begin s, t he
prnspe1· ity of t he time was re fl ected in large expenditures for
radios, phonographs, ancl musical instruments. Newspaper s, magazi ne , books, and other r eading- materials were next in importance, with movi e admissions running thircl . In the depression
years 1933- 35, the spending for both read in g- and recr eation fell
drasticall y, even when t he fa ll in prices is cons ider ed, and onl y 10
percent of the total was for purchas ing items in the radio and musical instruments grnup. Reading materials commanded a fourth
of the total and motion pictmes a fifth.
2:1.- ll ·a ge-carnrr anti cleriral-u·orkrr f amily r.r p1,wl it11res for rrrrru fion,
rearl-i11g, and ed11catio11, 0 r•fr l'/ ed perir"/.s, 1.90 1- 50

T A H 1.1,:


19 17- 19


l trm

A mo nn t


193-1- :Jr.

l' ercrnt

of tot:1 I

of total

P.\: I H'll dit11rcs for

1•x 1w n dit 11 rrs for

Am oun t

c11rrr n t


(' 011 !'- l llllf)·

<·ons umpLion


of total

Percen t

of total

r:qll'n rli-

A 111 0 11nt

rx pend it ures for A moun t tnres for
c urrrn t
c urren t
c·o ns 11mp con~um ption

Hadio, tclcd:--ion,
and 111 11sical in •
sl ru111c11 ts ... - Ad m iss \011 s 2. ......

R eadi ng
Other; . .

$ I ll

$ 10

3 • •. •

··-· -

'l'olnL. --

I. (i


J. I






2. i

.l l



- --- -3. 7

o. r)


0. 7
0. 5
l. J



\ ;)

I. 3
I 0
fl .;)



0. ~



1. I


1. 7

I. 2
0. 0
0. I
I. R



5. 8

1 Estilllatcs hascd on de tailed reports for 21 fiG7 f:rn1 ilics.
:M odes , s pectator sport s , play s , and concerts.
3 Xcws papcrs, magazines, ancl rental an d purchase or hooks other th an school books.
4 School supplies, books, t11itim1 , mus ic and dancit1glessons, and the li ke.
• 'l'hc "other" category is 1101 entirely eomparahlc as bctll'een 1917- 19 nnu t he su bsequen t periods. F or
exa m ple, the H)l 7-19 fi gu re i11 cl11 <lcs tnn·e l expenditu res in cident to excursions and v acat ions , w hich are
classified as t rnn' I expenditures in tl1c later snn·eys.
:\l'OTE: Items may not add to totals because of ro11 ncli11g.
S011uc1-:: 8cc t::1 hlcs 3, 4, 5, and G.

*The l!lOl fi gu re is not e ntirely comparable with the total s for later years, mainly because
it does not in clude expenditures for education; they are not available for that year.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

TA!H, is

24 .- Dislribution of tot al pr,rsonal C() nsumption c.rpendit11res for recreati on
and rewl i n!/ , "eln·tfci years, 1929-55

T ola l rx prndi t11rrs for rPcreatio n a nd n •:td in l,!:
A 11101 rnt ( in million:-) _

l ',•rc,• 11 t. .. . ... __
Ad miss ions ____ _

Jvl o l ion pict ures __ __
'l'l 1catrc, opera, etc ______ __ _

S pectator s port~--- __
R ad ios, tclc\'i sio11, phonographs, and nni sil':il
i11 str 11 m cnt s__ _________ ___ __________ _

Commercial partici pant amusemen t~--C J11bs a nd organ izations ____ ______ ___

S port equipment, toys, etc ________ _
HtaUin g m a ter ial:- . ___ _____ __ . ___ .. _
Ot her n •C' rt•at ion ______ ____ __ ___ _





I 1935 I rn~o

! q,·-I 'HI I $·) ''O'J
I 'JO;,'o Ii ~;J~.~

~., fi30

· ;;1~


t3. 71i l
lflll. 0





$0, ·Il l $ 111, 7(;s

2 1. 0

2ti . 0

2fi. 5

2-1. 0

'.!~ . s

l fi.ti
2. \)
l . :,

'2 1 9
1. 8
2. 3

21. J
· 1. 7
2. 'i

2. ti

'1. 1. 7
2. ti
1. :,

Ii i. 1;
1. Ii
2. I

2-1. 0

9 .fi


~', . I


5. 4

12. ,


7. 5
1:1. 4

;)_ .1
1-1. ~


4. ~


19. 1;



2 1. H




l~~. 7

l~ . 1;

l f, .-1

-1. 4

4 . :1

➔. 4

-1. 4


$13. o~o
JOO. 0
J:l . 5
u. 9
l. H

1. 8

\~ .I
1:1. l

SO L' HCE: .'-.'ational lnco rn r , 195-t, A :-:. 11pp\1 •11H·11t lo t lic S un·1• ~· of C~llTl' ll t H:1:-- i11t':-i:-i. :111 d :-:1 1n ·1•~· of Currt> nt
fl usitll'SS, Jul y IU5i", tabh· 30 ( LT. :--:. I l1•p :1r l llll'lll of C'o111JJ1l'IT1·, Officr of l3 t: sirH'S:-i E co11um ic·:--) .

By 1940, recovery from t he depression was marked by use of a
larger part of the recreation dollar than in the depression to pay
for radios, phonographs, and musical instruments, at the expense
of read ing, movies, and social clubs and organizations. This was
short-li Yecl, however. Th e effect of wa1time co ndi tions is told
dramaticall y by the shal'p dl'op in spending for raclios and in struments. In 1944, on ly 7 percent of the recreation clolla1· went to
this group of items; attendance at movies becam e the m ost popular
activity, and reading was a strong second choice.
Movies reached th eir clim ax as a consumer expend iture item in
Wol'lcl War II; the1·eafter, t elevision took the lead. Add ilion of
TV Lo the category of 1·acl io, phonographs, and mu s ical in st rnments caused total expendit ures fo1· this gr oup almost to triple
beLween 1929 a nd 1950. By the latte1· yea1·, the gro up commanded
one-fourth of a ll spendin g for recreation and reading. Motion
picture theaters lost some of th eir attrncti\'eness ; fami lies often
stayed at home to watch res urrected moYies, plays, and yaricty
shows on their TV sels. The pl'oporti on of recreational expe 11clitu1·es on movies dropp ed from a foul-th in 1944 to less Lhan a Len th
in 1955.
Stimulated, no doubt, by TV broadcasts of sports events, hi ghe r
real incomes, and th e move to s ub urbia, t he public turned toward
outdoor physical activities. Homeownei-shi p co n Lri buted to t he
em phasis placed on outdoo1· acti\' ili es and prompted the purchase
of equipment for gardening, games, and the barbec ue pit. Purchases of sporting goods and equipment, as well as toys, increased
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


There remains a question as to the extent to which these changes
in the distribution of agg r egate spending for readin g and recreation describe the urban worker's experience. The aggregate
figures include spending by other urban fami lies, farm families,
and institutions .
The Bureau of Labor Statistics 1950 Survey of Consumer Expenditures shows clearly that by that year the average urban
worker's fami ly spending pattern was not very d iffe1·ent from the
average of all urban fami lies. (See table 25, below .) Compared
with all urban families, urban wage earners and clerical workers
spent somewhat more of their reading, recreation, and education
dollars for r ecreational pursuits, somewhat less for education, and
about the same for reading materials. The proportion of workers'
total expenditure s going to these groups was about equal to the
urban average: 5.8 percent compared with 5.9 percent. The differences are hardly significant. It is highly significant, however,
that by 1950 the spare-time habits and expenditure patterns of
urban workers differ ed so slightly from national norms; in 1901
they were distinctivel y "working class."

2.5.- P ercen(distrilm tion"of urban fami ly e:rpendit'llres for recreation, reading,
and educat ion, 1950
Ite m


All families

Recreation __ ___ ___ _______ __ _____ ___ ____ __
R adio, t elc,·is ion, and musical instr um ents _______________ _ __ ___ _____ _
J\ d 111 ission s__ __
_______ ___ ______ _____ ___ ___ ______________ _____ ____ _

_____ ___ _____ ______ _____ _____ __ ____ ______ ___ ______ ___ _______ __

F, rlu cation ___ _ _ ___________ ___ .. ... -- - .. - - - - - - -- - -. -- - - --- - --- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -- - - 'l'ot·tl .• ----- ----------- ----- -------- - --- ------ -- - ----- ---- -- -- ______ __ __ _

74. 3
2r,_ 7
18. 2
20. 4

\V orkf' rs'
fami lies

lU. 2

7i. I
29. 4
20. 1
27. f,
15. 4
7. 5

100. 0

100. 0

rn. 5

Fur dt•fin ition of items, sec table 2:1.

So, · Hf'E : Sl c t:thles 6 a nd 8.

Footno tes
The 5-Day Week in Ford Plants (in Monthly Labor R eview, December
1926, p. 11) .
" George Iles, World' s Work, quoted in B. W. Overstreet, Th e Free Lectu re
Sys tem of New York, in Aclnlt Ed11ccitio n in Action (New York, American
Association for Adult Education , 1936), p. 77.
3 C. Hartley Grattan,
In Quest of Knowledge- A Historical P erspectiv e
on Ad11lt Education (New York, Association Press , 1955), p.168.
-1 AFL-CIO N ews , Septembe r 7, 1957, p . 6.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Consumption Statistics: A Technical Comment
The belief in Prog1·ess, not as an ideal but as an
indispu tabl e fact, n ot as a task f or hu manity but as
a law of naturn, has been the w or king faith of the
W est for about a hund1'ed and fifty y ea1·s.
- William Ralph Inge.

In drawing on the somces of information about Un ited States
city workers and their fam ilies as consumers, previous chapters
have indicated important limitations on the use of the so urces for
comparisons of one period with another. Even in a book with t he
nontechnical purpose of the present volume, readers are entitled to
a summ ary of differ ences in the sources, especiall y those a1·ising
from changes in statistical concepts and techniques. As it happ ens,
the very changes which impair compar ability often constitute additional evidence of gains in the workers' status as consumers. Thus
viewed, brief description s and evaluations of expendi ture sur veys,
standard budgets, an<l esti mates of total personal consumption expendi tmes for the population as a whole become an integral- if
little known-part of the story, rather than a mere appendi x on

For any study of city workers as consumers, t.he primary source
of data is the several consumer expenditure surveys macle by the
U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics * between 1888 and 1950. Although 4 of these st.ud ies-1901, 1917- 19, 1934- 36, and 1950have been r elied on primarily here, limited use has been m ade of
other surveys, including an 1875 study in Massachusetts. The purposes of th e several surveys were not identical-a maj or source of
noncomparability but also a di stinct reflection of the progress of
worke1·s as consumers. Other important sources of noncompara*The Bureau of Labor Statisti cs has operated u nder a va riety of na mes an d w ithin severa l
F edera l de pa rt me nts during its history. It was o rig in a ll y es ta blis hed by t he act o f Jun e 27.
1884, a nd o rg a ni zed in J a nuar y 1885 a s th e Bureau of Labor within t he Dep a rtm e nt o f t he
Interior. In 1888 it was m ade the Departme nt o f Labor a nd headed by a comm iss ion er who
was n ot, how ever, a m ember of the P res ident's Cab inet. In 1903 it became the Du rcau of
Labor in the Departmen t of Commerce a nd L abor, a nd in 1913 w as inco rporated as the Bureau
of L a bor Statistics in the new ly establis hed Department of Labo r.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


bili ty are the populations represented, the criteria for selecting
fami li es surveyed, and the survey methods.
Laying the Foundation: 1875

The existence of general comparabi lity among the various surveys ca n be attribu t ed primari ly to the use of the basic methods
established in the first expendit ure survey in t he United Statesthe 1875 survey in Massachusetts-in a ll of the studies by the
Bm·eau of Labor Statistics. Th e fact that Carroll D. Wright, chief
of the Massachusetts Bm·eau of Statistics of Labor in 1875, became the first head of the con-esponding Federa l bureau a nd held
this position from 1885 to 1905 seems to explain this fortunate
circum stance. Ceitain ly hi s influence on t he 1888- 91 and 1901
s urveys is clear. Beyond that, a ny sul"Vey of income and expendi- ~
tures, to be meaningful , mu st obtai n the kind of basic information
described in the Massachusetts 1·eport:
Cos t of living, an ofte n-used ex pression , m eans, in its broades t
s en s'e, the r elation of earnings to ex penses. A complete hand li ng
of s uch a subj ec t , w ith this comprehension, r equires , fir s t, a full
investi g ati on into the sources of income , denoting the amo un t
r eceived from ea ch ; second , an analys is of the t otal expe nd itul'e,
showing th e outlay for each item of necessaries or lu xuries ; t hi rd,
a compari s on be twee n the two s ides of the account, a s given above,
in order to show the pecuni a ry surplu s or defi cit . . . .1

With t he exception of refi nements for handling cha nges in fam il y
assets a nd liabilities, the 1875 statement mi ght ha ve applied to
each of the subseq uent surveys. Because all of the su rveys provided t ho1 ·ough accounts, completeness an d consistency have been
checked severely and extensiYely.
Purposes of Major S urveys

Recognition of t he worker's rising level of living is implicit in
th e staled purposes of these studi es.
The 1875 stud y, on wh ich table 1 ( p. 35) is based, was designed
"to show the actual condition of the wo l'kingman . . . and his
compal'ative situati on as r egards hi s fellow laborers in oth er states
and fore ign countri es . . . ." 2 Concern for the worker's welfare
was emphasized in the report's summary:
Our work and a im has bee n to hold th e mirror up to th e entire
wage sy st em (not with restri ct ed application to its wo rkin g in corporation s ) , in order that it might see its own deformities , a nd be
led to s often its vi sage and look with more brothe rly feeling upon
th e laborer, who to il s on and ever, and who be in g worthy of his
hire, should r eceive it.3

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

In 1888, when the Bureau of Labor undertook the first nationwide expenditure survey, its purpose, in line with the legislation
creating the Bureau, was to study the worker's consumption habits
and living costs as elements of production costs and competition in
foreign trade. (Data from this study are presented in table 2,
p. 37.) Another phase of the study covered wages in these industries, both here and abroad, since advocates of higher tariffs
were arguing for the "protection" of workers from "cheap" labor
in competing countries. The extent to which the surveys emphasized the worker's role as a producer, rather than as a consumer,
is suggested in the Sixth Annual Report of the Commissioner of
Labor, which presented the results:
An essential element in the cost of production and in the efficiency
of the labor employed is the cost of living. In connection, therefore,
with the facts gathered by the agents of the Department relating to
the cost of production, earnings, and efficiency of labor, there has
been collected a vast amount of information pertaining to the cost
of living of the men engaged . . .'

The 1901 study, which is the basis for table 3 (p. 40), reflected
an interest in workers' consumption patterns per se. Thus the
Bureau sought to obtain a representative sample of all industrial
wage earners. Two principal reasons were cited for this survey :
The passage of time (more than a decade) since the preceding
study indicated the need for more recent data, and expenditure
data were needed to derive weights for combining retail food
prices, collected concurrently but covering the preceding decade,
into a retail food price index.
The 1917- 19 survey had similar aims, but it was designed also to
serve other objectives. (See table 4, p. 42, for results of this
survey. ) Royal Meeker, Commissioner of Labor Statistics at the
time, indicated that the survey had the purposes. . . (1) of determining the quantities and cost of all important
items of family consumption in all the more important industrial
centers in the United States, (2) of applying the accepted dietary
standards for determining whether the families studied were obtaining a sufficient number of calories and sufficient variety in their diets
to maintain their members in health, (3) of working out, if possible,
standards-similar to the recognized dietary standards-for clothing, housing, fuel, housefurnishings, education, amusement, medical
care, insurance and perhaps some other items which have been heretofore blanketed and lost under the term "miscellaneous," ( 4) of
formulating eventually tentative standard budgets to be used by
wage adjustment boards in determining minimum and fair wage
awards, (5) of enabling the Bureau of Labor Statistics to compute
a cost of living index number that will show variations in total
fam ily expenses in the same way as the retail food price index
shows variations in the cost of the family food budget. 5
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


This quotation indicates the first use of one of the studies to
derive a list of items representing both the kinds and quantities of
things bought by workers' fami lies for constructing a "cost of
living" index. The subsequent discussion of standard budgets
(p. 232) indicates how the Bureau drew on the 1917-19 study for
its standard budget studies.
The 1934- 36 survey of income and expenditures, presented in
table 5 (p . 44), was designed pr imarily to revise t he cost of living
index; the spending patterns of wage earners and clerical workers
living in large cities had changed substantially since 1917- 19. It
was conducted concurrently with a study of consumer purchases,
made by the Bureau in cooperation with four other Federal agencies. The latter study undertook to reflect consumption of all
segments of the population, both urban and rural. The attempt
was in line with the new and sharp awareness of the importance of
consumption data for analytical and policy-making purposes which
were very different and much broader than those of the earlier
studies. The Bureau's recognition of these developments in economic analysis and theory, as ,vell as of other uses of expenditure
survey data, is shown by the summary r eport of the 1934- 36'
In addition [to its use for index revision], it has supplied valuable
data about the kind of living available to the families of employed
wage earners and clerical workers in large cities, as defined by the
sources of their incomes, the kinds of goods and services they buy
in a year, and the kind of dwellings in which they live.
The material, supplying as it does the largest body of available
data on the entire range of items for which moderate-income
families in large cities spend, will be of great value to businessmen
wishing to estimate the demand for specific products among urban
families at the income levels in which these groups are found. It
will also be of value to legislators and other students of taxation
problems, to labor leaders and employers in connection with wage
adjustments, to welfare workers planning family budgets and relief
allowances, and to students of consumption problems interested in
the more theoretical aspects of the subject. 6

In its 1950 study (tables 6, 8, and 9, chapter II), the Bureau
sought to determine current expenditure patterns of workers' families for purposes of revising the index (which had meanwhile been
renamed the Consumer Price Index) and also to obtain comparable
data for all urban consumers. Thus the survey included all levels
of income, all occupational groups, and "single consumers," i. e.,
unrelated individuals functioning as consumer units, in addition to
families. This provided not only the basis for comparing wageearner and clerical-worker family expenditure patterns with those
of other economic groups but also a wealth of material for use in
other types of consumption analyses.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Purposes of Other Surveys

Among the more interesting and unusual of the other expenditure surveys used in this book was the study of wages, food prices,
rents, and living conditions among industrial workers in 1909,
conducted by the British Board of Trade. Like our government's
1888- 91 survey, the study's primary purpose was a comparison of
the cost of living in various countries. Data were obtained from
over 8,000 workers in 28 cities, located mostly in the area east of
the Mississippi, which was considered sufficiently industrialized
and urbanized to be comparable with England and Wales. In addition to the overall averages, separate data we1·e published for each
city and for major nationality groups.
The study of consumer purchases in 1935- 36 was conducted
under the auspices of 5 cooperating F ederal agencies__:.._the National Resources Committee, the Central Statistical Board, the
Works Progress Administratio n, the Bureau of Home Economics
of the U. S. Department of Agriculture, and the Bureau of Labor
Statistics. This study provided, for the first time, "an extensive
and comparable body of data on the spending habits of the various
major groups of American consumers," 7 reflecting the new emphasis on the rol e of consumption in the Nation's economy. It
yielded a battery of reports which remain unique statistically.
They provide reliable estimates* for both urban and rural consumer groups, based on a national sample of sufficient size to permit cross-classific ation by the significant characteristic s which are
essential to the analysis of consumer behavior.
Two nationwide surveys were made during World War II, in
1941- 42 and in 1944, with the former including rural consumers.
Both were designed primarily to obtain nationwide data required
for tax, rationing, and other wartime economic policy purposes.
Accordingly, relatively small samples could be used to obtain reliable national averages.
The impact of World War II on consumption patterns led to
fears that the weights used in the Consumer Price Index (then
based on the 1934- 36 survey) were no longer representative .
Accordingly, the Bureau of Labor Statistics made expenditure
surveys in several cities during the years 1947- 49, which demonstrated the need for index revision. The 91-city expenditure survey in 1950 was designed, as previo usly indicated, to provide the
basis for a complete revision of the index. However, the Korean
hostilities necessitated index adjustments before the comprehen• Stat isticia ns ca 1I a ny fi g ure obta ined fro m a samp le of a large popu lat ion a n "estimate," in
dis tinction f rom data col lected from all m embers of the population as in a ce ns us, w hi ch are
known technically as "para meters:•
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


sive revision could be completed. Therefore, the relatively small
1947- 49 surveys were used in making immediate improvements to
the index. Subsequent analysis of the 1950 survey data established
the substantial validity of this interim adjustment.

Populations Represented*
Differences in purposes and, to a lesser extent, advances in
knowledge of sampling created significant differences in the populations represented in these surveys.
In the earlier expenditure surveys, the purposes dictated that
the coverage be confined to workers: In 1888- 91, those employed in
9 major industries protected by the tariff; in 1901, workers in
principal industrial center s (those employed in services and trade
and transportation as well as manufacturing); in 1917- 19, workers in 92 urban places located in 42 States; and in 1934- 36, wage
earners and clerical workers in 42 large cities.
In all these surveys, two stages of sampling were employed.
Urban centers in effect served as primary sampling points, largely
because industries usually were located in cities. In the second
stage in sampling, individual workers were chosen from the payrnlls of particular companies. Precise information about some of
the earli er sampling procedures is now lacking, but experimental
and somewhat informal methods are apparent, for example, fro m
the quotation g iven below (p. 225 ) regarding the 1875 Massachusetts survey.
Because the total population was to be sampled in the 1935- 36
study of consumer purchases, the individual consumer units were
drawn from city directories.** Newly developed area sampling
techniques were applied in the World War II and subsequent expenditure surveys. In the Bureau's surveys, the areas were blocks
or their equivalent, so stratified as to obtain a sampl e representative of the population.
The sample for the 1950 stu dy was mu ch larger than for the
wartime surveys, in order to obtain usable data for individual cities
and classes of cities. The sample was also designed to permit
extensive cross-classification by important fami ly characteristics
that influence expenditures significantly. These include not only
income and family type and size but also such characteristics of
the family head as age, sex, race, occupation, and education.
• rn the subseque nt discussion of populations represented and e lig ibility diffe rences in the
various s ur veys , indebtedness is ackn owledged f or access to the foll o wing monog raph s cheduled
fol' publication in 195 9 by th e Whar ton School of Finan ce a nd Comme rce : H elen Humes La ma le,
Methodology of the Survey o f Con s umer Ex penditures in 19 50, Appe ndi x B , Summ a ries of
Nationwide E x penditu re Surveys, 1888 - 195 0. Selectio ns from a nd in terpretation s of the f acts
a re, o f cours e, the a uthor's res pons ibility .
•• E xce pt for N ew York Ci ty and Chi cago, wh ere samples ,vere selected from real prope rt y
in ven tory lis ts . Area s ampling techniques we re employed for vi1lages and f a rms.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Criteria for Selection of Families
Survey eligibility rules (i. e., the standards used in determining
whether to include a family in the survey) also affect the representativeness of the data and comparability between surveys. As
the purposes shifted to the derivation of price index structure and
the construction of standard budgets, eligibility rules were required to assure that the survey would yield data for families
which could be deemed "normal."* Sometimes this was achieved
by tabulating data separately for the normal fami lies, as in 1901.
In other cases, e. g., 1917- 19 and 1934- 36, data were collected only
from wage-earner and clerical-worker fami lies. The concept of
normality has varied considerably; so have the sets of rules designed to define "workers" or "wage earners," as the case may be.
In both 1888- 91 and 1901, the normal family was defined as a
husband at work, a ·wife, no more than 5 children and none over
age 14, and no other dependents living with the fami ly. In 1901,
salaried workers r eceiving more than $1,200 were ineligible, but
no eligibility ceiling was placed on earnings of wage earners.
Families with roomers and boarders were not classified as normal,
although data for such famil ies were obtained and published . In
1917- 19, families were eligible only if they included at least 1 child
who was not a boarder or a lodger. The family could have up to
3 lodgers, but families with income from boarders were not el igible. "Slum" and "charity" families were exclud ed, as were
families unable to speak English and those living in the United
States less than 5 years.
With the Nation plagu ed by unemployment and unde1·employment when the 1934- 36 expenditu r e study was p lanned, a new
eligibility r equirement was deemed necessary: At least one wage
earner or clerical worker in t he fami ly must have been employed
as much as 1,008 hours spread over a period of 36 weeks. Families
receiving either direct or work relief were excluded.* * The res ul t
was that the group surveyed had a significantly higher average
income than did all urban wage-earner and clerical-worker families. In all probability, too, that group was better off relative to
other groups in the economy than sample familie s had been in
other surveys. The traditional eligibility rules were somewhat
relaxed; married couples with no children and 2-person families
with one parent absent were eligible. The family could have the
*To provide norms in the statistical sense; i. e., famili es of s ize and compos ition so n ear the
average that their expend iture pattern s could be u,;ed as t he basis for lea rnin g how much th e
ex penditure patterns of less common types of famili es differed from the "norm."
**If the aim· had been to represe nt s impl y the 1934 36 s ituat ion, such famil ies might have been
included, but the fact that revisio n of the index of pr ices of goods and serv ices purchased by wage
earners and clerical workers was the major objective made it im portant to obta in data which
wou ld be reasonably representative of s uch workers over a per iod ol years.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


equivalent of two full-time roomers or boarders (i. e., roomers or
boarders present for a total of up to 104 weeks). All native-born
famili es of two or more w er e eligible for the 1935- 36 study of consumer purchases, with a few inconsequential r estrictions.
In 1941- 42, only the institutional population * was excluded, so
that the sample for the fir st time included single consumers in
proportion to their importance numerically in the total population.
(The 1935- 36 study had included some single consumers, but they
were asked for income information in only 4 cities and for expenditure data in only 2 of the 4.) In both 1944 and 1950, the sample
was designed to represent the entire urban noninstitutional population. Eligibility rules, ther efore, eliminated very few consumer
units.* *
Varying representation of N egroes in the earlier surveys introduced an indeterminate statistical bias which affects historical
comparisons. Very little is known about the extent to which
Negroes were included in the 1888- 91 and 1901 studies, but relatively few were then employed in the industries from which the
samples were drawn.
The principal report on the 1917- 19 survey included data from
few if any N egro families. For those areas where Negroes were
a sizable segment of the population, the data were tabulated and
published separately. The data for white and Negro families were
not combined for this volume because of lack of knowledge of the
sampling design of that study and the consequent danger of constructing invalid or misleading averages for urban workers as a
whole. Accordingly, average incomes and expenditures shown in
table 4 of this volume are somewhat higher than if data for Negro
families had been included.
Likewise, there is reason to believe that Negroes were underrepresented in the two surveys of the mid-thirties, except in areas
where they comprised a substantial portion of the total population.
In the 1941 and subsequent surveys, however, Negroes were included in proportion to their number in the total covered population.
Several of the expenditure surveys provided separate data for
groups whose characteristics differed somewhat from those of the
survey group a s a whole. These are shown in table 26 (p. 226),
which, although designed for another purpose, is useful in this
connection. The groups most n early comparable with the 1917- 19
* In mates of institut io ns, res iden ts of m ilitary ca mps, posts, a nd reserva ti ons, e tc.
** P robably the most im portant exc lus ion was that of fam ilies w hich ex isted o nl y p art of the
s urvey year. The princ ipa l exam ple wou1 d be a coup1e who m arried du ring the year, li ving as
mem bers of oth e t· fam ili es prior to m a rriage. In der iv in g Cons umer Price In dex we ig h ts, on ly
data from the wage-ear ne r and clerica l-worker families were used. Th is procedure excluded
s ing le consum e rs, t he self -employed. a nd other occ upational groups n ot class ified as wage ea rners
or c]er ica] wo rkers. a nd a ll f am iies w ith in comes of $ 10 ,000 or m ore after taxes .

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

and 1934- 36 wage-earner and clerical-worker samples include the
"normal" families in 1901, mban families of 2 or more in 1935- 36,
1941- 42, and 1944, and the wage-earner and clerical-worker families of 2 or more in 1950.

Survey Methods
Much of our ability to use the various studies in this type of
analysis stems from the uniformity of basic survey m ethods. All
of the Bureau's surveys-like the 1875 Massachusetts study-emphasized obtaining data on total incomes and expenditures of
families or consumer units. In the 1934- 36 study, this was expanded to include an equally comprehensive inquiry into changes
in fami ly assets and liabilities during· the survey year. Previously,
the difference between income and expenditures had been arbitrarily assigned as savin gs or debt, as the case might be. The
same survey marked the first expli cit recognition that families
might report income, expenditures, or changes in savings-or indeed all three-erroneously .*
From the beginning, data have been obtained for a full year,
although not always a calendar yeal'. Likewise, since experience
proved that personal inquiry by a trained interviewer elicited
more complete and accurate information than other methods, this
technique was built into each survey.
The Massachusetts study inclu des a piq uant paragraph on this
In every case, in the following returns, the entire earnings and the
entire expenses are given. This desirable uniformity has been
secured ... by direct personal inquiry. The agent, upon arriving in
a place selected for investigation, and , knowing its prominent or
peculiar industries, vis ited the mill, workshop, wharf, public works,
or foundry, as the case might be. Accosting the first workman at
hand, a s tatement of what was desired was made; in case of compliance, a time was fixed, co nvenient to workingmen, at which to
supply the desired figures and information; in case of inability
or want of inclination, application was made to one and another of
the workmen, and at other establi shments, until the desired number
was secured. Vi sits by day were made in order that the locality
and the immediate surroundings of the houses could be examined,
and visits in the evening were requ ired, for then the workmen
could refer to their account-books and bills, and find the items of
*This led to initiatin g use of the "bala n c in g d ifl'crence," i. c., calculation of t he difference
between total receipts and total disbursements as reported b y the consumer unit, with t he
differen ce ca lculated as a percentage of the la rger figur e. In 1934- 36, schedules with differences
larger than 5 percent were not used. In subsequent surveys, h ig her differences were accepted.
By 1950, this measure was used to "point the finger" at schedu les which required n very
rigorous examination, but no schedule was rejected automatically. The change in approac h
represented increas ing awareness t hat automatic disqualification tempted fi e ld s upervisors and
interviewers to force" schedules into balance by leading respondents to alter the ir original

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


T.-\ B l , E


2U.- T otal personal con~1t m plion e.c penrlitures per ca pita and w •erage ex pendit ure~ for c1trrenl cons u mption per fami ly member, '
selected years, 190 1- 56


1111 cu r re n t d o ll a r s]

Yea r



:--:ource and ot her kh'ntifi ca t.ion

- 1 - - -- - --

Jf/0 1

19 17-1 9
19 19
193 1
1934- :JG
1935- 06


194 l
194 1
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


R en t

r ood



H l~S- 1I ,156 n ornwl f amili r.'L __ ....... ..
De whu rs t . ______ _
l l f• whtt rst _
nrJs- 12,096 fcim1 l ie.~ of 3 nr more .
l ) (•W hll rS L _ __ __ ___ _

l >l' w hlll s L ___
De w hu rs t
lJ Pwh ursL
De" ltu rsL _
Co m mrrc(•__ _

..... i

N R C- l8 ,496 f a mi lies of R or 111ore ....... - .1
1V R C- 42,8i6' consli mer units , in cluding
Co mm c , ce ..
C'o 1nmrrce __
Co rn ,ne rce ..
Co m merce __ _
----- -1
C'<Hll ll l (' J ce __ ____ - - - - - T/ f, S- J,0J 2families of2 or mere . . • • ••
HfJS- 1,220 lt-rban co 11 s11- mer 11 11it s _______ _
H l~s•- A gric11 Unre , 2,903 consu mer nnits,
incl w li ny










;J J

6 94




1s., .

, 65


11 7


JI .\


, l'f,

u.i;crat 1011

t 1011





Jl i
37 '



T rans portat ion
.\ fedi cal I Person al



Pu lJlic

Ii ,









51 I









/ 5 /)









!, -?


I (')(')












-~ I






I f-i i



7 1!08





I :llS
r, ll i2

Co mm e rce __ _
Co rnm e rce ___ ______ _____ _
HL S- 14, 409 families cf 2 or more ....

1, f



Co rntne1ce __ _
Co mm<'rc,-•__ ___ _

F uel,
h ~hL, ,111d C lothm g

I orw 1~i -

m gs


cn re

Oth er
Re crea• 1 goods
Lion 3

l'r h·ate


serv ices


- - -- - - - - --- - - - - -


I>r wh u rs L ____ ___ ____

lf ou<e· j If ousc·
ft11 11 1s h• , hold


- -- - - --·-- -

H L 8 - 2,507 n ormal f u.1111lies . .






















(' )



('(')) _ I









.'J ~








4 1 (')

(') .



I .l I

20 !

14 1·





25 •


















' 58




I ti































2:! '









Commerce _____ ___ ________ ____ __ . __ ___ ___ .
Commerce .... _____ _______ . _____ __ ___ _-- - Com rncrcc . . ___ _____ _____ __ _________ __ - . - -



J?L S- 11 713 urban consumer unit&______ ___
Hf,S-1,403 urban families of 2 or more ....


• 102

C~)llln1 Cf CC .... ____ - ___ - - - - - __ - - .. _ - -- __ - - -


Commerce . . .. . ___ . ... -- ... -- --- - . - - - - - - - Com merce . _ __ ___ ________ ___ ___ __________
Con1mc rce ______ ____ . ______ _____ __ ________
Co mmerce ____ __ __ _________ ______________ _



Co mmerce . __ ____________ _____ __ . __ _____ _.
Conunercc ..... ____. -- - . - ------ - -- - -- - --- Commerce .. ___ ___ __ .. __ - -- - - . -- - --- -- - -- Commerce .... __ ___________ _____ . _____ ____


worker famil ies of 2 or more ___ ____ ______ _

Commerce ___ ____ - _... - .. ----- -- - --- - - . - - -

Co 111nwn.:t• __ ___ __ ___ __ ____ ____ __ . _. __ _. __ _

3 1i




Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis















I ll























Perso nal co nsum ption expt•ntliturcs per capita cakubtl'd hy diYiding aggregate
h untln·d
ex penditures to nearest billion dollars by to tal C. S. population to nearest
thousand; f'x penditurrs for curr<' n t co ns umption per famil y me mber calculated
place as
di dding a \· expend itures per family hy a \·erag<' fam ily s iw to 1 decimal
n expcod determined d uring n"'speeti\·e rxpencl iturr surn~ys . For perso nal co nsum ptio
iturrs, t.he da ta are fro m a ti m(• series prepared and pu blis hed by the U.S. Departml'Ilt
of Comme rce from 1929 forward a nJ publis hed for 190\1--29 b y ll,•11·hurs t a 111l Associates
(sec sources) . For expend itures for current consumption , data arc from va rious
section ex pend iture sur veys condu cted b y the B urea u of Labor Statistics, on occasion
in cooperat ion with agencies o f the U.S. IJc partmen t of AgTicult.ure (scr so urces)
Other i<kntiflcation s uppli ed
2 So urces arc given mo re full y in so urce note brlow.
than 1
where nrcrssary to id en tify St"' r irs o r sa rnplr srgmnll from a study where more
as indistlect io n is o r co uld be• used. Data co llPC' tcd o nl y fro m urban samplt."'S rxcept
2 or morr.
cated. ''Co11sumrr un its" includ r sin v; le co nsumer" as well as fa milit~s o r
in all of the rxpC' nditure
3 Recreation incl udes read in g <.mtl ed uca tion expe nditures
sun·eys, exce pt th e one for 190 1.
• Other ~oods and scr\'ices include princi pally alcoholic bewrages (except as
otherwise) a nd tobacco in th e ex pendi t ure sun·cys.


Commerce ..... _____ _____ - - - -- ---- ------- Co mmerce .. __ -- -- - - .. ___ -- - -- - . -- - - - --- - nrJ.S---1£,489 urban consu.mer units _____ ___
11 L S-10,791 nrban fami lies of£ or more . __
/ ? L S-7,007 urban wage-earner and cleriw l-


! 76

9 /

11 8
























11 5

~ fnclud ed in o th er goods and St>n ·iccs .
yea rs
• D ewhurst data for 1929 based o n same amount of detail as fo r 1927 and ea, lier
hccausc of no nco mparab ilit y with Com merce serirs for food , ren t, cl. nd "other
lass ificat ion
and scn ·iccs .'' 'For ot hrr consumption grou ps, ,·ery minor difft.'n' nces in c
1 ln cludcs c.q wnditures ror alcoho lic be,·eragcs.
as rent.
s 'l'ota.l h o us ing expenditures , i. l'. , includ es costs or hom eow nership as wr ll
t, and refr igeratio n.
~ Rent inc ludes total hous ing expcnditurrs p lu s ful'I, ligh
XoTE: Item s may not add Lo totals because of roundin g.
Associates, America's
SOURCE : (a) T ime Series: 1909- 2\}-J . Frederic D ewhurst and
Needs und Reso urces: A New Sur vey (The Twentieth Cent ur y Fund, 1955) appendix
table 4-4, pp. 965-983; 1929--56-U. S. D epartmen t of Commerce, S urv ey of Current
Busi ness, Sationa l Income Supplem ent (1954 ed. ) a nd July 1957 issue, table 30.
Cross Section Studies : 1901, 1917- 19, 1934- 36, and 1950---src tab les 3- 6, ch . II; 1935-36,
E stiKat ional Resources Committee, Consumer Expenrliturc s in th e U nit ed States,
mates for 1935-36; 19-11 - F a mily Spend ing and Saving in W artime, U. S. Bureau
Labor Statistics Bulletin 822; 1944- .\lontbly L abor R eview, Jan uary 1946, pp.

expenditure of their cost of living. As a matter of fact, our returns
would have been materially smaller in number, or wanting in completeness, but for these evening visits made after work was done.
The rooms were inspected and their pleasant or unpleasa nt features
noted. The children were at home, and the physical appearance and
dress of the family were observed. 8

The discretion earlier vested in the agent in selecting the
samples of plants and especially of individuals has declined progressively; in the more recent studies this potential bias in selecting the sample has been eliminated .* Th e techniques of interview-multiple visits, strong encouragement to utilize written
records, and use of home surroundings to stimulate accurate recall
of expenditure data-remain cardinal principles.
Although they reflect successive refinements, both the schedules
used to record the data and the more important summary tabulations bear a strong resemblance throughout the surveys. The 1950
survey schedule, of course, dwarfs that used in 1901, because many
of the varied goods and services bought by the worker's family in
1950 were unknown and even more of them were beyond the worker's means, perhaps beyond his fondest dreams, early in this
Summary use has been made in other chapters of the estimates
of total personal consumption expenditures, a continuing series in
t he estimates of national income and product, or national economic
accounts, compiled by the Department of Commerce. That series
and the periodic BLS surveys of fami ly incomes and expenditures
supplement each other significantly. The continuing Commerce
series indicates changes in consumer expenditures between the infr quent expenditure surveys. The BLS expenditure surveys, on
t he other hand, provide checks on the validity and reliability of
estimates for the various components of the annual series. They
can also be used to improve those estimates.
Adjustments for Noncomparabil ity

Paradoxically, the two sets of figures, although supplementary,
are essentially noncomparable. The reasons for the noncomparability, and the adjustments required to make them reasonab ly comparable, call for brief discussion.
Like the other series in the national accounts, the Commerce
estimates of personal income and personal consumption expendi•The "field age n ts" who obtained the basic data in t he 1875 survey were undoubtedly well
instructed under the tuition of such a n outstanding statistic ia n a nd adm inistrator as Carroll D .
W right and they seem, too, to have been , as a rule, in sp ired by Mr. Wright's keen de votion to
the ideals of accuracy and objectivity.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

tures are aggregates designed to embrace the entire economy; they
therefore reflect incomes and expenditures of all segments of the
population, both urban and rural. The expenditure series includes
expenditures by nonprofit institutions (such as churches and
health, welfare, and charitable organizations) for goods and services usually purchased by the ultimate consumer. It also includes
expenditures for goods consumed by personnel of the armed services, which affect the food and clothing components in particular.
The treatment of income in kind especially affects homeowner
costs, because both personal income and housing expenditures include an appropriate allocation for the net rental value of homes
occupied by the owners. (Value of food raised for home consumption has little significance, of course, in studies of urban consumption.) The aggregates, moreover, are essentially a carefully
constructed mosaic, pieced together skillfully and carefully from a
variety of sources.
The ELS expenditure data, on the other hand, have represented
the total urban population in some of th e more recent studies, but
earli er surveys were more likely to include only city workers. In
most of the surveys, it was found that the consumer units had little
nonmonetary income and reported only money receipts and disbursements. These unit were included in samples designed to be
representative and, in the last 25 years, so drawn that the sampling
error was a known factor.
Thus the ELS surveys permit greater assurance of consistency
for estimates of urban family expenditures than does the Commerce series, which was designed for another purpose and for
which data from a variety of sources must be combined.
Despite these differences, both sets of statistics can be used to
cast additional light on the welfare of the American worker. By
careful adjustments, some of the noncomparability can be eliminated, and much of the residual difference can be explained (but
not measured).
In computing the figures shown in table 26 (p. 226), both the
Commerce aggregates, stated in billions of dollars, and the ELS
data, expressed as average expenditures per family or consumer
unit, were converted to per capita figures. Using the per capita
basis as a common denominator eliminated the effects of the increase in population from the Commerce series, and partly erased
the effects of differences in family size from the ELS data.
For years prior to 1929, when the Commerce series begins, personal consumption expenditures were derived from those assembled by Dewhurst and Associates in their studies for the Twentieth
Century Fund. For 1929, both are shown, since they cannot be
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


satisfactorily linked because of certain noncomparabilities, which
affect chiefly food, rent, and "other goods and services." (See
table footnotes for explanation.)
The Dewhurst and Commerce aggregates were reclassified on
the basis of the consumption groups used for the Consumer Price
Index. Those seri es which had no counterpart in the expenditure
surveys, e. g., food and clothing for military personnel, were
omitted. In the case of housing, on ly rent expenditures were used
because this seemed less misleading than to attempt adjustment of
the Commerce homeownership expenditure data, which are completely noncomparable with the BLS treatment of these costs.
Some major so mces of noncomparability could not be eliminated
or adjusted. With a few obvious exceptions, the Commerce series
could not be adjusted to separate expenditures by the rural population from those of the urban, nor could institutional expenditures
be eliminated. Similarly, in the years prior to World War II,
when the BLS su r veys relate solely to wage-earne1· and clericalworker families, it was impossible to segregate the Commerce data
on expenditures by s ingle consumers a nd other groups in the urban
population. Nor could the shifting mban-rnral composition of the
population, which affects the Commerce series, be taken into

Comparison With Expenditure Surveys
The various differences between the per capita expenditur e averages and the expenditures per family member impaii- comparisons
of levels of expenditure at a given time. Trends shown by the
respective averages in table 26 can, however, be compared, a lthough
the inclusion of the 1·ural population and of institutional expenditures in the personal consumption expenditures seri es makes it an
imperfect indicator of trends of expenditm·es per fami ly member
for urban families and especially for city workers' families. Trend
comparisons are va lid even though the two measures do not cover
p1·ecisely the same time pe1·iods in the early years.
Price changes, of course, are reflected in both sets of data, and
the dol lar figures cannot be used to measu l'e the trend of actual
consumption of goods and services. Nevertheless, even a casual
inspection of the Commerce data shows fluctu ations in consumption not evident from the occasional surveys of family spending.
Trend comparisons indicate a remarkable narrowing of the gap
between city workers and other groups. Th e 1909 per capita personal consumption expenditures were from 2 to 3 times the 1901 per
family membe1· expenditures of city wo1·kers, with the exception of
food, where they were only about one-third hi gher. The difference
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

was still very great at the end of World War I. Expenditures for
food were only $112 per fam ily member in 1917- 19, in contrast to
$178 per capita in 1919, and private transportation costs per capita were 11 times as much as per fami ly member. The 1919 figures
reflect price advances which occurred aft er the BLS conduct ed its
World War I expenditure survey (in which 75 percent of the
r eports covered the year ended in July 1918 and none covered a
year ending later than F ebrnary 1919) .* Nevertheless, the price
increases can account for only a small part of the extreme differences.
By 1950, spending per fami ly m ember by city workers for many
groups of consumption items equaled or exceeded per capita expenditures by the population as a whole. The outstanding exception was in respect to "other g ood s and services," and mu ch of that
difference stemmed from the more comprehensive coverage of the
Commerce series for that gro up. **

Estimating 1956 Family Expenditures
The personal consumption expenditure series can also be used to
project cunent expenditui·e patterns of urban consumers and,
with less reliabili ty, those of city workers and their families. Such
proj ections are useful because there has been no general expenditure sur vey since 1950. Consumption patterns are, 0£ co urse,
affected by changes in income levels and in pri ce levels, as well as
by other factors. Since the vario us forces are r efl ected in the
Commerce personal consumption expenditure series, their trends
are reasonable approximations of changes in the expenditures of
all urban consumer units.·!·
The procedure is mathematica lly simple. From table 26, the
1956 average expenditure per capita for each consumption gro up
was calculated as a ratio of the 1950 expenditure for the group.
Applying these ratios to the corresponding average expenditures
of all urban consumer units in 1950 r esults in the estimated ave rage expend itures and patterns shown in table 27. These estimates
appear to be conservative in comparison with the r esults of alternative estimating procedures.
*Consumer prices in 1919 were 15 percent higher than in 1918 a nd 35 percent above their
1917 levels.
**The BLS 11 other goods and service~" gro u p includes chiefly tobacco and a1cohol ic beverages;
see footnote 4, table 26.
jin fact, they are acceptable, but in d im ini!>hing degree, for est imating expendi tures of
urban fami lies of 2 or more, urban wage-earner and clerical- worker famil ies of 2 or more (but
not with the accuracy n ecessary in a ny revision of the Consumer Price I ndex we ig hts). urban
s ingle co nsumers, and wage-earner and clerical-worker si n g le consumers, as well as correspondin g segments of the rural population.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



27 .- Consumption ex penditures of all urban consumer units, 1950 averages
and 1956 estimates
E stimated 1!)5!i c xpt'nditurcs



H ,·rragC'

e xpcnditur('s

P!'r,;cnt of total
CXj)('ll (litu res

for currrnt

consum ption

Food __ ____ ___ _______________ _______ ___ ______________ ___ ___ _
Housing __ ___ ____ _________ __ ___ ___ ____ ___ _____ __ ___________ _
Fuel, light, and refrigeration _____ ___ __ __ _____________ ______ _
Household operation ___ _____________ ________ _______________ _
Furnishings and equipment_ ___ _______ ______ _____ ___ _______ _
Clothing __ __ ____ __ ___ _________ ______ ____ __ __ ____ ____ ______ __
Private ___ ____ _____ ___ ------- ------ -- --- -- - - -- --- ___ _-__
Public _______ __ __ __ --- --- -- __ --- --- - _____ ------ ___ -----Medical care ___ _______ _____ _______ ____ __ __ ___ _-- ------ ____ __
Personal care .. _____ ___ __ ______ __ _________ _. __ . _. _________ _
Recreation, reading, and education .. _____ ____________ _____ __
Other goods and services__ ________________ __________ __ ______ _


I 538

11. 6


4. 4
4. 9



5. 9
10. 2

44 3




11 2

I. 4
5. 5






6. 0



4. 9

Total expenditures for current consumption. _____ ---- 1-----;~808



1 Housing was estimated In several ways, because of noncomparability of Commerce aggregates
BLS expenditure survey data. 1' he estimate used, $538, was obtained by applying the rent ratio (1.255)
to the rent segment of the 1950 survey data and the average of the ratios for other groups (1.202) to the homeowner expenditure segment. If the latter were used for the entire housing group, the estimates would be
lower by $6; If the rent ratio were used, higher by $12. Other altern atives yield a maximum of $560, with
$538 as the minimum,
NOTE: Items do not equal total because of rounding,

Other data which have been used in this volume to supplement
the family expenditure surveys are standard budgets relating to
particular kinds of families. Makers of standard budgets, in
striving to define a standard of living, are often likely to describe
a way of living somewhat higher than the contemporary level.
Scientific standards, for example of diet, usually are somewhat
higher than have been attained by many families in the group for
whom the budget is designed. Such standards, however, do not
depart radically from what is accepted as feasible. For consumption goods and services for which standards have not been evolved,
the budget designer relies primarily on the actual levels of living
attained by families most nearly like the "budget family." As will
be indicated below, the post-World War II budgets of the BLS embodied in the City Worker's Family Budget r epresented a closer
approach to objective realization of a budget, with the subordination of subjective elements, than had theretofore been attempted.
As we shift from use of consumer expenditure surveys as mileposts of consumer gains to a necessarily sketchy review of the role
of standard budgets as progress indicators, another Meeker statement provides an apt introduction:
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

. . . not only do we have the cost but we have the quantity, in
m ost ins tan ces, of all important items of the family budget. The
qua ntity boug ht is a bsolutely essential for workin g out s tandard
bud get s. Expenditures s tated m er ely in s um s of money are u seless
for the determ ination of th e s tanda rd of living or of the quantitative
cha nge in the cos t of this s tandard of living .9

In effect, Meeker signaled the end of the pioneer phase of budget
constructio n, when budgets had been developed directly from
money expenditu r e data usually obtained from studies conducted
for that specific purpose. S uch budgets were valid only for t he
place where the study was conducted and only as long as prices
r emained fairly stable. The big price inflation during World War I
emphasized this defici ency. Differ ences in the impact of infl ation
among cities, perhaps exaggerated by the situati on in shipbuildin g
center s, und erscored the need for emphasis on physical quant it ies.
Conceptual Advances*
The incorporati on of obj ective standards, particul arly of nutrition and housing, characteriz ed all but the very earliest budget
studies, whi ch wer e often sponsored by charitable organizatio ns.
In line with the " subsist ence" concept inherited from abroad and
still influential in both sociological and economic thinking in t he
early years of the current century, such organizatio ns were primarily concerned that r ecipi ents of assistance shoul d obt ain s ufficient food , shelter , clothing, and medical care to maintain health.
The s ubsistence approach was infl uenced by the "iron law of
wages" and the " wages fund doctrine," which imposed rigid limits
on the worker s' potential as well as actual bet terment .** American workers, and g radually the economists , of this century reacted
even mo1·e strongly than their predecessor s against t he essentially
pessimistic implication s of t hese ideas. Accordingly, a " living
wage" concept fo und widening a cceptance through the fi rst 30
years of th e cent ury. A living wage was defined as sufficient to
provide not only the foo d, shelt er, clothing, and medical car e necessary fo r health and decency, bu t also a n add itiona l margin for
"comfo r t." And standard budget s, as distinguish ed from "assistance" or " s ubsist ence" budget s, tended progressive ly to define
standa r ds somewhat higher than t he contempora ry levels of living
among workers.
• This treatme nt of con cepts of income ad equ acy was s uggested, and is more completely set
forth, by H elen H umes L amale. in Chan ges in Concepts of Income A dequ acy Over the L ast
Cen tury (i n P apers and P roceedings of the S eventie th Annua l Meeting, Amer ica n E conomic
R ev iew . V o lum e XLV III , N o . 2, May 1958) .
.. T hose concepts we r e nu t ab a ndo ned by J ohn Stuar t M ill u n t il 1869 (see W . J . As hley's 1909
ed it io n of Mill's Principles of P o li t ical E co no m y, pp. 99 1- 993). S im ilar idea s s ur vi ved, however, even in America.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


The long depression of the 1930's, with chronic unemploymen t
on a scale never before encountered in this country, created a temporary demand for budgets geared to "emergency" and "maintenance of health and decency" (at minimal levels) concepts. As
the economy recovered, eai-lier humanitarian and reform impulses
in support of social betterment were reinforced by r ecognition of
the necessity for a conscious, deliberate policy of emphasizing consumption, rather than depending on the "automatic" forces of the
market to maintain high-level production and employment.
The comparatively recent development of a concept of income
"adequacy" in budget making is, in fact, influenced by the national
policy of maintaining an expanding economy, with high-level consumption regarded as inseparable from the maintenance of highlevel production. Nowadays, primary interest in budget development attaches to providing tools to measure the adequacy of
self-supportin g families' incomes. Even the "assistance" budgets
are based on standards which would have been adjudged luxurious by earlier generations.
Contemporary crosscunents lessened interest in the use of
budgets as a basis for appraising wage levels. Such forces as
manpower and mate1'ial shortages in World War II, the postwar
inflation, and the 1948-49 downturn, with the decline of capital
goods spending, were accompanied by rap id shifts of emphasis in
the area of wage income. Workers were primarily concerned with
maintaining the buying power of wages in the face of advancing
prices. A more general r ecognition that real earnin gs were limited by the amount of output available for consumption led to
widespread interest in the linking of wages to productivity, for
example by "improvemen t factors."
For some groups of workers, however, the concept of the standard budget as a meas ure of "adequacy" has remained useful.
New distortions of economic r ewards, often particularly serious in
the lower ranges of salaried employees, were created by the uneven
pressures of wartime and postwar inflation, and some of these still

Budget Studies
The foregoing discussion of the changing concepts and uses of
standard budgets provides a backdrop for a summary view of important budgets. The 22 budgets shown in table 28 (p. 236) were
selected to provide a representative cross section of budgets compiled during the 20th century. Exclusion of certain budgets carries
no implications regarding their validity or reliability. Where
choices among budgets for different cities were necessary, broad
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

geographic coverage and the presentation of budgets for a given
city at different times were the criteria for selection.
Average dollar figures for the total budget and its major components are given for their general interest. However, since the
purchasing power of the dollar varied widely during the half century, only percentages of total goods and services required for
food, rent, fuel ancl light, clothin g, health, and "all other goods and
services" are shown . As in the expenditure surveys, the percentages yield more meaningful comparisons. They are also useful
for comparisons with the percentages of family expenditures for
roughly comparable groups of goods and services, as shown in the
tables in chapter II. The total budget costs should not, however,
be compared with total expenditures fo1· current consumption. In
addition to the goods and services which comprise the bulk of each
budget, it includes additional costs-principally personal taxes,
li fe insurance, and occupational expense-that are usually excluded from the expenditure figures. These costs are shown
separately in table 28, and their relationship to the total budget is
The budgets for which costs are shown in different cities illustrate an important secondary purpose of some of the budgets,
namely comparisons of differences in the cost of livin g in different
places. Such comparisons are valid only in t erms of equi valent
levels of living; * a given standard budget, of course, defines such
a level. Because of the techn ical difficulties, scope, and cost of
these studies, comparisons of place-to-place differences in the cost
of living have been left largely to the Federal Government.
In the earliest studies, the standards were inferred directly from
the expenditure data, whi ch, however, included substantial detail as
to quantities involved. The N ew York, Chicago, and Philadelphia
budgets through 1914, fo1· example, were based primarily on data
obtained by expenditure surveys of varying scope, tailored specifically for this purpose.
The first budgets in this countl'y to be expressed in quantiti es of
goods and services for which prices were obtained to determine
budget costs were those for southern and Fall River cotton-mill
workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics made this basic contribution to budget methodology as one phase of an exhaustive investigation of the condition of women and chilcl workers, ordered by
Congress in 1907. They were also the first budgets to define explicitly two living levels ("minimum" and "fair") simultaneously.
*The concept of equivalent ]evels o( li d ng perm its min or differences from place- to place in
th e l ists of goods a nd serv ices in c luded in the bu dget because of d iffere nces in climate. in a,•a i lability o( goods or services, or in other factors, prov ided the differen t lists y ield the satisfaction
s pecified or implied by the defi nit io n of level o r sta ndard of li v ing.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis





28.- Selected standard family budgets in the Un ited Stales, 1903-56
P ercen t d istribution ol t he cost ol goods and ser vices

Short title of budget

Time period cov1


cost of

and serv ices

Other b udget


R en t


Cloth- Health ' goods

P ercent

serv ices Amount of total



~ - - - -- - - - - - - - - - -- - - - - --- - - - - - - - ----

I. New York City W age Earners ____________ 1903--05 ____ _____ __ _
$803. 90
5. 6
2. Kew York City Workingmen _____ ____ ____
190i - -------------- --- ----i82. 00
3. So uthern Cotton-Mill Workers:
Minimum ____ _____ ___ __ __ _________ __ _ 1908 ______ _________
408. 26
"'air _______ __ ______________ ___ _____ __ _ 1908 _________ __ __ __
5 0o
582. 54
4. Cotton-Mill Workers of Fall Hi\·er, Mass.:
Nfin imum ____ ______ _____ __ __ ____ ____ _ 1908--09 __ ______ ____
5. 0
484. 41 4 ______ ___ __________ __ ___ _ __ ____ __ 1908--09 __ __________
,). 0
i l 3.H
!•'air 5__ _________ ___ ___ ____ ______ ______ 1908--09 ___ ____ _____
672. 40
5. 0
5. Chicago Stock yards Families _____________ 1909- 10 . _-- _--- -- __
5. 3
76:i. 10
6. Philadelphia Textile Mill Families _______ 1913- 14 . --- ---5. 0
943. 94
- --M arch 19 18 ________
5. 0 1, -111. 00

100. 0
100. 0

45. 2
45. 9

20. 2
21. 5

5. 3
5. 2

11. 0
14. 6

2. 8

16. 2

JO. 0

$32. 35
29. 00

3. 9
3. 6

$836. 25
8 11. 00

JOO. 0
100 0

60. 5
49. 2

1 I. 0
i. 7

12. 0
8. 4

14. 4
19. 4

2. 8

12. 5

18. 20

3. 0

408. 26
600. 74

100. 0
100. 0
100. 0
100. 0
100. 0

56. 8
43. 6
46. 3
48. 0
40. 3
41. 5

18. 5
13. 5
15. 7
14. 7

8. 8
6. 0
6. 4
4. 7
5. 4
4. 5

16. 5


19. 2

1. 6

20. 3
16. 7
22. 4

2. 8
2. 9

I. 8
11. l
11. 8
17. 3
15. 7
14. 0

18. 55
18. 55
34. 90
126. 00
192. 00

2. 5
2. 7
4. 4
11. 8
12. 0

4S4. 41
73 1. 99
690. 95
800. 00
1,069. 94


23. 8
16. 3
15. 2
Ii. 2
17. 5
21. 4
15. 2
13. 4
Ii. 4
13. 8
14. 0

2. 3
5. 4
4. 7
4. 8
5. 1
6. 2
; 9. 6
6. 9
3. 9
4. 7
6. 0

16. i
19. 0
18. 9
19. 9
22. 9
19. 4
19. 8
12. 6
21. 2
20. 9
19. 6

2. 6
3. 0
2. 7
2. 7
2. 7
2. 6
2. i
3. 9
4. 3
5. 4
3. 7

15. 9
18. 2
16. I
16. 0
15. 7
17. 0
14. 2
J.5. 4
13. !
1S. 0
16. 2

35. 60
56. 19
61. 89
68. 25
59. 82
63. 65
130. 00
99. 00
IG5. 00
120. 00

4. 1
4. 6
3. 4
3. 4
3. 4
3. 4
3. 4

1, 375.60
1, 3ii. 40
2. 142. 4i

100. 0
100. 0
100. 0
100. 0
6 100. 0
100. 0
100. 0
100. 0
100. 0

38. i
42. 5
39. 4
36. 2
33. 7
30. 0
44. 5
38. 8
39. 3
40. 1

8. 6
6. 7
9. 4

876. 43
772. 43
I , 636. 79
1, 803. 14
! , 988. 32
1, 742.68
1, 854. 28
1,08 1.72
1, 505.60
1, 4i6. 40
I , i60.50
2, 262.47

J, 226. 16
1, 511. 50
I, 935. 14

100. 0

46. 7
41. 9
40. 7

9. 5
12. 0
11. 2

5. 7
5. 6
3. 6

19. 9
21. 3
23. 5

2. 5
2. 2
4. 1

15. 7
17. 0
16. 9

41. 60
62. 40
308. 80

3. 3
4. 0
13. 8

1, 267. 76
I , 573. 90
' 2, 2'13. 94


7. New York Factory Commission:
New York City _____________ __ ______ 19 14 __ ______ __ ____ _
Buffalo __ __________________________ ___ 1914
____ ·------- -- 8. Phi1~delphia Workingmen __ ___ ________ __ _ Autumn 1918 ___ ___
Xon, mher 1919 __ __
August 192Q_______

9. Dallas Normal Family _________ _____ _____ _
10. Seattle-Tacoma T ra nsit Workers ___ ____ ___
11. Pacific Coast Workers ______ _______ __ ____ _
12. New York Minimum Comfo rt. _________ __
13. Washington, D. C. F ederal Workers ____ __
14. N I CE , Fall Hivcr, Mass:
Minimum __ _________ __________ __ ___ __

l\farch 1921. ___ ____
" ·larch 1923 __ __ __ . _
April 1917 __ ___ ____
October 1917 ___ ___

October 1917- __ ___
.Tune 1918 ___ ____ ___
J uly-August 19 19 __
October 1919 ___ ___

More JiberaL ---- --- ---- - --- --- -- -- - -- October 1919 ___ ___
15. Coal-mine Workers _______ __ __ ____________ December 1919
___ _
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

3. 3
3. 3
3. 0
5. 0
5. 0
5. 0
5. 0
5. 0
5. 0
5. 0
5. 0
5. 0
5. 0
5. 0
5. 0

840. 83

--- -- ----- JOO. 0
I, 580. 60
1, 7-ll.25
I , 920. 07
! , 682. 86
1, i90. 63

---- ---- --

1. 2

---- ----

16. L abor Ourcau, ;s;cw York City ·- ----- - · ·, :\"o,·cmb€r 1920 ... 17 . J lr ll~ ;c~i:~~'.~t-~c_'_~'.1~1 _F :~'.1_c~~~: ___ __. __
18. \\" PA ;\fa intcnancc Uud g;e1__
Atbnt3 ___ ___ __ ____ __ __ _

_____ ________ __
1929 ______ _______ __

---- -- - -- - - \larch 1935 ___ _____
\ l arch 1935 __ __ ____


5. 0


100. 0

33. 2

16. fl

5. 0
5. 0
4. 0

2,354.3 1
I. 86 1. 48
I. 211. GI'
I. 2 13. 82

100. 0
100. 0
100. 0
100. 0
100. 0
100. 0
100. 0
100. 0

31. 4
35. 7
:17. 0
3~. 2
:J5. 9
35. 3
3G. 0
3-1. 3
31. 9

20. 4
19. 3
20. 3

100. 0
100. 0
100. 0
100. 0
100. 0
100. 0
100. 0
IUO. 0

3(t fi


3,1l. 7


31. I
3.\ G


20. 9
20. 9
18. 6


22. 6


3ti. :i

II 19. 9 !


. •- ----- -··-- ·----·-··· l\ l arch 1935_ ·-· · - - - --- --·-1 1,:l06. 37
_______ ____ March 19:3:L. . . ___
Chicago_ ___ _ _______ ___
4. 0 1. 307.90
____ __ _____ \ f nrc h 1935 _______ .
l'\' cw ·Y ork __ ___ ______
4. 0 I, 328. 73
_ _____ ___ .\l a rc h 1035. __ ____
San Franci~ro_ ______ ____
4.0 , 1,343.47
\\'ashington, D. C _______ ___ ---- -· -·- \lar ch 193.1 · -·- __
4.0 1 1. 368.1 4
19. BLS Cit)" W orker's Family Budget:
Atlan ta _______ ___ ____ _________ __ ____ ._ June 194/ _____ ____
4. 0 2. 853. 00
June 19-17 __ _____ __ _
Hos 1on . ___ __
4.0 2,981.00
--------Buffalo ___ __
June 19-17 _____ ____
4. 11 2. 810. 00
------- - ·-- ------June 19-t / ____ _ __ __
2, 9f.5. 00
-l. ll
.lune 1947 ____ ______
4. 0 2. S70. 00
June __________
4. II 2,739.00
Ju11c 1947 __ _______ _
·I. U 3,019.00
June 194 / ____ _____ _
4. I) 2. 9r,.1. 00
.lune 194 7 _____ --·4. () 3,054.00
I Ju n e 19.; _____ ___ __
U l 3, 111. 00
20 . 111,S City W o rker 's Fa mil y B ud get :
4. 11 3,844.00
October 1\J.1 1.••.• _
OciobN 19:il. _____ 1
-1. 0 3, i53. 00
Octohcr 1951. __ ___ I
4. 0 :{. 1;;-1 , 00
Oc·tober 19:il. ____ _
4. U :J, 745. 00
D enver ___
4. () 3, 748.00
- ------- ------ -- Octo be r 195 1. _____
4. 0 3. ,158. 00
l..:: ansas City -- --- ------- -- ---- October 1951. ___ __
:\"cw Yor k Ci1y. __ _
4. 0 3,639.00
------- - -Ban Francisco ___ ____ __ ____ _______
October 1951. _____
4. I) 3. 779. 00
------- -·
Seattle ____ ____ __ ____ __
4. 0 1 3. 823. 00
October 195'---· · - 1
\\'as hin gton, D . C ___ _____ ______ ____
4. 0 3,965. (}()
2 1. New York City F am ily Bu dgpt Stand:ird.
4. 0 3, 728. 40
Bos ton ___ _

See foot n otes at e nd of iab h'.



Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

100. 0
!(}(). 0
100. 0
II KJ. 0
100. 0
100. 0
100. 0
100. 0

37. 3
30. 4
3.1. 7
3.\. S
33. 4


11 18 I

27. 5

( '')

4. ,I

18. 8
16. 0
13. 2
12. 0

3. I
4. 0
4. 3
4. 4
4. 2
4. 4

21. 8
20. 4
19. 0
211. 7


4. 8
4. 3

19. 0

5. 2
3. 4
3. 9
4. 3
3. 4
3. 4
3. 3
3. 3

2. 484.31
l. 926. 48
1, 200. 62
I, 2f.S. 22
I , ~J.12. 7i

4. 2

130. 00
65. 00
48. 94
54. 4(J
4fi. 40
48. 21
4f.. 40
4ll. 40
46. -10
297. 00
285. 00
317. 00
298. 00
271. 00
328. 00
3,\3. 00
334. 00
34i. 00

9. 4
9. 9
9. 2

3, 150.00

9. 4
10. 0

47 1. 00
464 . 00
4,13. 00
440. 00
451. 00
402. 00
484. 00
457 . 00
489. 00
493. 48

JO. 9
11. 0
11. 0
10. 5
10. 7
10. 2
IO. 9
11. 4
10. 7
11. 0
11. 7

8. 5

8. I
, .0
( ")
(11 )



( 11)

(" J
(" I




20. 0

( 11)


24 . 3


35. 9


3fr 1


36. 0
3f.. I


3-1. [)
3fi. ;


:J i . (j

35. 8
35. 9
34. I
3~. ;;

22. 0


8. 2
7. 0
8. 4


( 11)


(" )

(11 )


22. 9
19. 2
19. 8


21. I


21. 0
26. 1
18. I




2, 632. &;

20. I

-I. fi

20. 2

---- ---

2. H

(" )
(11 )


(" )
2. 7

12. r,

12. 7
13. 3
11. 3
14 . 5
14 . I
15. 2
l :\. I
15. 0
15. 7
15. I
J.\. 0
14. 9
(" )
(" )

11. 8

JI ..)

5. 4

22. G
2:1. 8
21. 6
23. 2
2 1. I
20. G
2:J. 5

5. 5
5. 1

.5. 0
5. 5
5. 5
5. 5
6. 9
fi. 4
5. 9

21. 5

(" )


39. 8

(12 )




"-12. 9
12 •II. 9
" 41. 6

( 12)

"4 2. 6
" 43. 1


IZ 4-1 . 1

-t :i. 1



( ")

"39. 8
22. I

7. 0

9. 7

1, ~i5G. 11

I. 375. 13
1. :l89. 87
1,414 .54

3. 310. 00
3,0%. 00
3. 282. OU
3. 168. 00
3,0 10.00
3,388. 00
3, 458.00
,1, :3 15. 00

4,2 17.00
4. 127. 00
4, 185.00
4, 199.00
3,900. 00
4. 083. 00
4,280. 00
4. 454. 00
4,22 1. 88

T .1 RLE



28 .- Selt'cled standard family bud gels in th e United Stales, J903-.j6-C'o nt inued


8-hort t itlr

or bud get 1


22. H eller Commitl('f' . San Fra11 risro:

Hala ricd work,·rs . .... .
Hf•ntingwagprarners __

j T i111r JWriod eo,·-




IFam 1I) I cost
anilc~-~•' .



S IZl'

T o tal



Food l·



~ - - - -1
I Fuel .
lrg ht 1



l k 1l t h ,

-- - --,- ------1--1


1i o lll ('0 \\7ling W.lJ!'C (':)fllt'l'S . - - - - .





I ;,017. 7!J I 100.0

19:>fo •••......••.• /


1!).~fi --------·

4. 0


HJ;,t,j_ _____

4. 0

5. Q;j8_ ; 5 ! 100. 0


For full title of hw lg-l't or s tud y, see so urces .
:\Irdical and dPn tal ea re exct.• pt as nOtl'd.
3 fnclud C's s uch itrm s as personal taxes, lifr insu rance, and of'c:upational ex pe nses.
4 Engl ish , Ir ish,
a nd French Canadian famili es .
& Portugu ese , Polish, and I talian familil'S.
6 Prrcrn tagcs are basrd on total budge t cost.
1 Jn cl11 drs water, iCl', laundry, and phone .
& "Ot1 1r r hudgct cos ts" are inc lud ed in '\1.11 othrr goods and sen·ices."
• 'l'otal increased hy $IO0 to a~ rrc with t ex t and table r,· i.n report.
10 "11(,a lt h" and "ot l1Pr bu<lgN cos ts" arc included
in "all o th er goo ds an I S(• n ·icrs."
11 "Fuel and lightn inc luded in "rC' nt."
12 "C loU1i 11g" and " health" included in Hall oth(•r goods and se1Ticrs. 11
'fhr <1 ~1im atC'd bud get cos t for 1951 for clothing, ho usrfurnishings, mrdical care, prrso nal rarr ,
household operation, and o tlwr ~ro ups combined wr re based o n prices o f a re hltin•ly
s mall sample lis t of itl'ms, whi ch did not yir ld se parate es timatrs within a satisfcwtory
dC'g-rcc of :\l'CUracy for these gro ups .
u I ro mrow nership cos 1s.

X OTE : Jtt' ll1S may not add to to tals hrrause o f ro und ing.
SO URC E: 1. L ouise B. More, W age-Earners' B ud gets: A Study of Standards
and Cost of Li vin g in N ew York C ity (New York , H . H olt and Co., 1907).
2. Robert C. Cha p in , The Sta ndard of Living Amo ng Workingmen's Families
in New York City, 1907 ( New York , Russell Sage Fou nda tion, Charit ies
Publ ication Commi ttee, 1909). 3 and 4. U . S. Bureau of Labor, R eport o n
Conditio n of Woman and C hild Wage-Ea rn e r s in th e United States, V olume
XVI, Family Budgets of Typical Cotton-Mill W orkers (Was hing ton , 61st
Cong., 2d sess., Senate Doc. 645, 1911 ) . 5. J . C. Ken n edy, Wages and Family
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

l 'l'H·rnt distribution of the cos t of goods an d scrdces

31 1 1


35 I

100. 0


33. 2



18. 1



Other b udget
costs 3



Percen t
serv1rcs Amount. I or tota l
bud get

1. 81

9. i


34 . I

I. 351. I~

2. 4
1. 9


'J . 1

s. 7

29. 0

9. 2

820. UI
810. (J2

28. 9


21 8, 368. 97

14. i

13. 9

5, 592. 59
5,849. fi7

lludgets in t he Chicago Stockyards Dis tr ict. with Wage Statistics from Other
In du s tries Employing Unsk ill ed Labor (C hicago, Un ivers ity of Chicago P ress ,
1914J. 6. E s t her L ou ise Little and William J ose ph Cotton, Budgets of F a milies
a nd in di vidua ls of Ke ns ingto n, P hil adelph ia ( Lan caster, Pa., New Era Printing
Co .. 1920) . 7. State of New York, F ourth R eport of t he Factory Investigating
Commission, 1915, V o lume IV (Alban y, J. B. Lyon Co. , 1915 ) . 8. B u reau of
Municipal Resea rch o f Ph iladelph ia, W orkingm en's Standard of Li v in g in
Phi ladelphia (New York , The Macmill a n Co., 1919 ) and Citizen s ' Bus in ess
(the Bureau's bulletin), Sept. 9, 1920, Apr. 7, 19 2 1, and Apr. 5, 1923. 9. Dallas,
T e x., Wage Commission , Report of th e Survey Comm ittee to the Dallas Wa ge
Comm iss io n (Dallas , 1917 ). 10, 11, a nd 12. Standards of Li ving, A Compilati on of Budgetary Studies ( \ Vas hington, Bureau of Applied Econom ics, Inc .,
1920) . 13. U. S. Bureau of Labor Stat istics, T e ntative Quantity and Cost
Budget Necessary to Ma inta in a Family of Five in W ash ington , D. C. , 1919
( Was hin gto n, 19 19; a ls o pub lis hed in source for item 10) . 14. Nation al
Indu s tr ia l Conferen ce Board , The Cost of Liv ing Among W age-Earners. Fall
Ri ver, Mass. , October 19 19, R es earch Report 22 (Bosto n, 1919; a lso publis hed
in so urce for item 10 ) . 15. William F. Ogburn, Budget for B itum in ous Coal
M ine W o rkers , 1920 (p ublis hed in sou rce for item 10 ). 16. L abor Bureau, Inc .,
Cost of Li v in g in New York City in N ovember 1920, based o n the BLS budget
in ite m 13 (in MLR. F eb. 192 1 ). 17. H eller Com mi ttee for R esearch in Social
Econom ics, Qua ntity and Cost Dudgets ( Berke ley, Un ivers ity of California,
1929). 18. Works Prog ress Adm inistration, In terc ity Differences in Costs of
Li ving in Ma rch 19 35, 59 Cities . R esearc h Monogi-:1p h X II, by Margaret Loomi s
Stecker (W as hington, 1937). 19. U. S. B ureau of L a bor Statistics, W orkers'
Budgets in t he United States: City Famil ies and Single Persons, 1946 a nd
1947. Bu ll etin 92 7 (W as hingto n , 1948). 20 . U. S. Bureau o f L abor Statis tics,
City W orker's Fam il y Budget for October 1951 ( in Monthly L abor R ev iew, Ma y
1952, pp. 520-522) . 21. W e lfare a nd H ea lt h Coun c il of New York City, A
Fam il y Budget Sta ndard (New York, 1955). 22. H eller Committee for Research in Social Eco nom ics, Quantity a nd Cos t Budgets for T wo Income
Levels ( Berkeley, University of Californ ia , 1956 ).

Whereas the earlier budgets were affected to a marked degree by
the "subsistence" concept of income adequacy, the inflationary
effects of World War I accentuated the demand for budgets defining levels of living which would meet the "living wage" concept.
Thus, governmental and quasi-governmental agencies in the Pacific
Northwest, Philadelphia, and Ne,v York City commissioned the
formulation of budgets which would provide a basis for setting
wages of transit workers or salaries of city employees at levels
adequate to provide what became known as "minimum comfort."
In 1919, the Joint Reclassification Committee of Congress requested the Bureau of Labor Statistics to prepare a budget for
Government employees in Washington, D. C. Although the Bureau
did not price this budget (known as the "tentative quantity"
budget) elsewhere, the quantities set forth therein were priced in
a number of coal mining communities in 1920 for the U. S. Bituminous Coal Commission and by the Labor Bureau, Inc., an organization that often represented employees.
Special interest attaches to the budgets published in 1919 and
1920 by the National Industrial Conference Board. Although only
the Fall River budgets are shown in the table, such budgets were
compiled for a number of cities r egarded as important industrial
centers. The Board prepared budgets at two levels, which were
designated as describing "minimum" and "more liberal" standards
of living. These marked a maj or effort in the budget field conducted by private industry.
Except for sporadic pricing of the ELS "tentative quantity"
budget during the 1920's, only one major budget study throws
light on levels of living in this period. * The 1929 budgets of the
Heller Committee for Research in Social Economics of the University of California give one of the few objective pictures of the
workers' status as consumers just before the depression of the
thirties. These budgets grew out of earlier work requested by the
California State Civil Service Commission. Th e H eller budgets
have been prepared and priced periodically in San Francisco for
more than 30 years, usually for two gro ups of workers-wage
earners and the group originally designated as "clerks," more recently as "salaried workers."
In the thirties, when the Federal Government was seeking reemployment for as many workers as possible, the Works Progress
Administration formu lated a "maintenance" budget, which was
described as being above the "minimum subsistence level" but
•Although no quantitati ve meas ure ment defi ni ng the relatio ns hi p between levels a nd s tandards of li ving at a ny g iven t im e has been ncccpte<l genera1I y, t he two nte or course closely if
inta ngibly related. Althoug h it is primar il y conce 1·n ed w ith cha nges in levels of Ji ving between
the mid-thirties and 1950, an illuminating discuss ion is prov ided by Faith M. Wi11iams , in
Standards a nd L evels of Li vin g of City-Worker Fam ilies, (in Mon th ly Labor Review, September 1956, pp. 1015- 102 3).
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


which did not approach "the content of what may be considered a
satisfactory American standard of living." 10 An "emergency"
budget comprised estimates derived by cutting even the maintenance budget for emergency conditions "with least harm to individuals and the social group." 11 Such uses of the general concept
of the standard budget were no doubt effective in dealing with
depression problems but represented a reversion to subsistence
In its 1946 and 1947 City Worker's Family Budget, the Bureau of
Labor Statistics broke new ground. That budget did not depend
upon subjective judgments nor did it have the limitations of being
designed specifically for wage fixing or other administrative purposes. Objectively determined standards of adequacy (for example, from the scientific study of diets) and, in the absence of
conclusive scientific data, the informed judgments of experts were
extensively incorporated in the budget. Actual consumer preferences were also widely utilized, that is, "standards that are revealed by the ways in which people actually spend their money
. . . . The point selected for measurement is in general the point
·where the struggle for 'more and more' things gives way to the
desire for 'better and better' quality." Thus wrote the official
und er whose authority the budget was initiated. "Actually," he
continued, "this budget is primarily a new tool in the kit of
the research worker." 1 2
"The point selected for measurement" in the City Worker's
Family Budget, the Bureau publication on the subject went on to
say, was determined in the following way:
The definition of the budget recognizes that in the actual experience of families there is a scale which ranks various consumption
patterns in an ascending order from mere subs istence to plenitude
in every respect. The budget level described here is at a point on
this scale below which deficiencies exist in one or more aspects of
family consumption.





To find the dividing point it is necessary to use some indicator
of group judgment that marks the place in the scale below which
reduction meets greater and grea ter resistance; above which expansions become more and more limited. The chief indicator of group
judgment which was used in deriving this budg·et was the manner
in which families increase thefr co nsumption as their purchasing
power increases. As purchasing power increases [at each succesively higher level on the income scale] , the consumption level
expa nds and more goods and better quality goods enter into the
pattern of living. As purchasing power decreases, the consu mption
level contracts, fewer goods are purchased, and the quality of the
goods purchased is reduced. As the consumption level apprnaches
the dividing point in the judgment of society, families resist further

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

decreases with increasing stubbornness. As purchasing power increases, consumption levels above the dividing point expand at
slower and slower rates. 1 a

The Bureau for a time priced the budget periodically in the 34
large cities in which price data were then collected for the Consumer Price Index. So rapid, however, were changes in types of
consumer choices and in standards, particularly of food, housing,
and medical care, that the pricing of the budget was discontinued
after October 1951.
The resulting void has been filled in small part by the New York
City family budget standard and the Heller Committee budgets for
San Francisco. Both utilize postwar standards and quantity data
developed from postwar expenditure surveys (chiefly the 1950
BLS survey) by obj ective methods generall y simi lar to those used
in the City Worke1·'s Family Budget. The price and quantity data
relate only to these two cities. The Heller Committee has also
made a significant innovation-the development of a separate
budget for homeowning wage earners, an increasingly numerous
The evidence of the standard budgets substantiates the various
other indications of the worker's progress as consumer. The
transformation of the purposes of the budget framers is itself
indicative. Moreover, th e importance of food allocations, as in
the "level of living" surveys, fell quite sharply; allowances for
health and for residual items, largely a margin beyond t he basic
necessities, rose from usually almost negligible sums in the earlier
budgets to around a third of the total in later budgets. The content of a recent budget is incomparably superior to the content of
an earlier budget.
The standard budgets, a significant phase of the Nation's growing concern for social betterment and economic equity, thus corroborate the diversified evidence of attainment by city workers of
s uccessively higher levels of well-bei ng. With workers free to seek
the realization of today's ideals, who can doubt that those standards will be transformed, as in the past, into tomorrow's levels of
Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Six th Amwal Report on the Statistics of
Labor, Part IV, Condition of Wo1·ki11gme11's Fam'ilies (Bosto n, Wright & Potter, State Printers, 1875), p. 354.
2 I bid., p . 192.
a Ibid., p. 450.
• Cost of Production: Iron, Steel, Coal, etc., Sixth Annual Report of the
Commissioner of Labor (Washington, 1891), p. 605.
5 Royal Meeker, What is the Am erica n Standard of Living-? (in Monthly
Labor Review, July 1919, p. 2).
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


" Faith M. Williams a nd Alice C. Hanson, Money DisbU1 ·sements of Wag e
FJarners and Clerical Workers, 1934- 36, Summary Volume, U.S. Bureau of
L a bor Statis tics Bulletin 638 (Washington, 1941), p . vii.
Consumer Expenditures in the United States, Estimates f or 1935-30
( Washington, National Resources Committee, 1939), p. 3.
• Sixth A nnual R eport on the Statistics of Labor, op. c'it., p. 219.
9 Royal Meeker,
op. cit., p. 3.
Intercity Differences in Cost of L iv ing in Ma rch 1935, 59 cities, Work s
Progress Admini s trat ion Research Monograph XII, p. xiv.
Jl Dorothy S. Brady, Family Budget s:
A His tori cal Survey, in W orkers'
Bndgets in the United States: City Families and Sing le P ersons, 1946 and
1947, U.S. Burea u of Labor Stati stics Bulletin 927, p . 44.
" A. Ford Hinrichs, The Budget in P erspective, in BLS Bulle tin 927, op.
cit., p. 2. (Mr. Hinrichs was Acting Commiss ioner of Labor Statistics ·when
the project which culminated in the City Worker 's Family Budget was
initiated . )
Lester S. Kellogg and Dorothy S. Brady, The City Worker's Famil y
Budget, in BLS Bulletin 927, op. cit., p . 9.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

The fol lowing publications ·were used in preparing this volume:

Public Documents
Dallas, Texas. Wa ge Co mmi ssion . Report of the S111'v ey Committe e to the
Dallas Wage Commission (Dallas, 1917).
Great Britain. Board of Trade. Cost of L i ving in A11u'1·ican Towns (London, 1911).
International Labour Office. The Six th l n te1·natio11al Confere11ce of Labour
Statisticians, Montreal, 4 to 12 August 1947, Studies a n d Reports, New
Series, No. 7, Pt. 4 (Geneva, 1948).
Massachusetts, Commonwealth of. 6th Annual Report on the Statistics of
Labor, Pt. IV: Condition of Workingmen's Families, Public Document 31
( Boston, Wright & Potter, State Printers, 1875).
- - - Bureau of Statistics. 41st Annual Report on the Statistics of Labor,
1910 (Boston, 1911).
New York City. Hou sing Authority. 19th Annual Repo1·t (New York,
- - - W elfare and Health Cou ncil. A Family Budget Standard (New
York, 1955).
New York, State of. 4th R eport of th e Factory Investigating Commission,
1915, Vol. IV (Albany, J.B. Lyon Co., 1915).
Philadelphia. Bureau of Municipal Research. Wo1·ki11gmen's Standard of
L iving in Philadelphia (New York, The Macmillan Co., 1919).
ations. Repo1't on l nle1'national Definition and Measur ement of
Standards and L evels of L·i ving, Sales No., 1954, IV, 5 (New York, Columbia Univers ity Press, International Documents Service, 1954).
- - - Statistical Office. Statistical Vea1·book , 1.956 (New York , U ni ted
Nations, 1956).
United States:
Anthrac ite Coal Strike Co mmi ssion. Report to the President on I he Anthracite Coal Strike of May- October, 1902 (Washington, 1903). Also
prin ted in B u lletin of the Department of Labor, No . 46, May 1903.
Board of Gove rnors of t he Federal Reserve System. Consumer Installment Creel-it, P t. 1, Vol. 1, Growth and Import (Washington , 1957) .
Bureau of Labor Standards. State Workmen's Compensation Laws, Bu ll.
161 (Revised) (Washington, 1957 ).
Bureau of La bo r Statistics a nd Predecessor Agencies. A mericcm Labor
and the American Spirit, by Witt Bowden , Bull. 1145 (Washington,
1954) .
- - - Analysis of H ealth and Insurcmce Plans Under Collective llargaining, La te 1955, by Evan Keith Rowe and Doroth y Kittner Greene, Bull.
1221 (Washington, 1957) .
- - - Case Study Dcita on Productivity and Factory Performance: Men's
Bib Overalls and Men's Work Ja ckets; Men's Work Shirts (prepared for
the Mutua l Security Agency, J anuary 1952 a n d December 1951 , respectively), (Was hin g ton , 1951 , 1952) .
- - - Changes in Cost of Living in Large Ci ties in the United States,
1913-41, Bull. 699 (Washi ngton , 1941).
471141 - 59-- 17
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


United States-Continued
- - - Child Labor in the United States, by Hannah R. Sewall (in Bulletin
of the Bureau of Labor, No. 52, May 1904).
- - - Conditions of Living Among th e Poo1·, by S. E. Forman (in Bulletin
of the Bureau of Labor, No. 64, May 1906).
- - - Consumer Cooperatives, Bull. 1211 (Washington, 1957).
- - - Cost of Living and R etail Prices of Food, 18th Annual Report of the
Comm issioner of Labor, 1903 (Washington, 1904).
- - - Cost of Living in the Unit ed States, Bu!J. 357 (Washington, 1924).
- - - Cost of Production: Iron, Ste el, Coal, etc.; T ex tiles and Glass, 2
volumes, 6th and 7th Annual Reports of the Com miss ioner of Labor, 1890
and 1891 (Washin gton, 1891, 1892) .
- - - Employers' W elfare W ork by Elizabeth Lewi s Otey, Bull. 123
(Washington, 1913) .
- - - Employment and Eco nomic Status of Older Men and Wom en , Bull.
1213 (Washington, December 1956).
- - - Th e E x hibit of the United States Bureau of Lab or at the Louisianci Purchase E x po sition, Bull. 54 (Was hington, 1904).
- - - Factory Sanitation cind Labor Protection, by C. F. W . Doehring,
Bull. 44 (Washington , January 1903).
- - - Family E x penditures in Selected Cities, 1.935-36, Bull. 648, 8 volumes (Washington , 1940- 41).
- - - Family Income and E x penditures in Chicag o, 1.935-36, Bull. 642, 2
volumes (Was hin gton, 1939).
- - - Family Income and E xpenditures in Fou r Ur ban Communities of
the Pacific Northwe st, 1935-36, Bull. 649, 2 volumes (Washington, 1939
and 1940).
- - - Family Income and E x penditures ·i n N ew Yo r k Ci ty, 1935-36, Bull.
643, 2 volumes (Washington, 1939 and 1941) .
- - - Family Income and E x penditures in Nine Cities of the East Central
Region, 1935-36, Bull. 644, 2 volumes (Washington , 1939 and 1941) .
- - - Family Income and E x penditures in Selected New England Cities,
1935-36, Bull. 645, 2 volumes (Washington, 1939 and 1941).
- - - Family Income and E x penditures in Selected Urban Communities of
the West Central-Rocky Mo untain Region, 1935-36, Bull. 646, 2 volumes
(Washington, 1939 and 1940).
- - - Family Income and E x pend itures in the Southeastern Region, 193536, Bull. 647, 2 volumes (Washington, 1939 and 1940 ).
- - - Family Income, E x pendi tures, and Savings in 1950, Bull. 1097,
Revised (Washington , June 1953).
- - - Family Income, E x penditures , an d Savings in 19.t,5, Bull. 956,
(Washington, 1949).
- - - Family Income, E x penditures, and Sa vings in 10 Cities, Bull. 1065
(Washington, 1952).
- - - Family Spending and Saving in Wartime, Bull. 822 (Washington,
1945) .
- - - Final Report of the Industrial Commission on the Relations of
Capital and Labor Employed in Man u factures ancl General Business,
Vol. XIX of the Commissioner's Report (Washington, 1902).
- - - Hanel ancl Machin e Lab or, 13th Annual Report of the U.S. Commissioner of Labor (Was hington, 1898).
- - - Th e H ousing of the Working People, 8th Special Report of the
Commiss ione r of Labor ( Washington, 1895) .

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

United States-Continued
- - - Interim Adjustment of Consumers' Pric e Index, Bull. 1039 (Washington, 1951).
- - - The Italians in Chicago, A Social and Economic Study, 9th Special
Report of the Commissioner of Labor (Washington, 1897).
- - - Labor -Management Con tract Pr ovisions, 194 9-50, Bull. 1022 (Washington, 1951).
- - - Money Disbursements of Wag e Earners and Clerical W ork ers, 193496, Summary Volume, by Faith M. Williams and Alice C. Hanson, Bull.
638 (Washington, 1941).
- - - Occupational Ou tlo ok Handbook, 1957 Edition, Bull. 1215 (Washington, 1957).
- - - Produc tivity of Lab or in the Cotton-Garment Industry, Bull. 662
(Done in cooperation with the Works Progress Administration and National Research Project) (Washington, 1938).
- - - R eport of the Industrial Commission on the R elations of Capital
and Labor Employed in Manufactiires and General B usiness, Vol. VII of
the Commissioner's Report (Washington, 1901) .
- - - Report on Condition of W oman and Child Wag e-Earners in th e
United States, Vol. XVI : Family Budgets of Typical Cotton-Mill Workers (Washington, 1911). I ss ued al so a s H ouse Doc. 1708, 63d Cong.,
3d Sess., and Senate Doc. 645, 61st Cong., 2d Sess.
- - - R eport on Conditions of E mployment in the Iron and Steel Industry
in the United States, Vol. I: W ages and Hours of Labor (Washin g ton ,
1911), Vol. III : Working Conditions and the R elations of E mployers and
E mployees (Washington, 1913 ).
- - - The Slums of Great Cities, 7th Special Report of the Commissioner
of Labor (Washington, 1894) .
- - - T entative Quantity and Cost B udg et Necessary to Maintain a Fam ily of F ive in Washington, D. C., 1 919 (Washington, 1919).
- - - Wag e Chronology No. 3: United States Steel Corp., Supplement
No. 7-1 956-57 (Reprint 2263 from M onthly Labor R eview, Nov. 1957).
- - - Water, Gas, and Electric-Light Plants Und er Private and Municipal Owners hip, 14th Annual Report of the Commissioner of Labor
(Washington, 1900) .
- - - Work ers' Budgets in the United States : City Families and Single
P ersons, 1946 and 1947, Bull 927 (Washington, 1948).
Bureau of the Census. Census of El ectrical Industries, Electric Railw ays (Washington , 1922).
- - - Contimiation to 1952 of H istorical Statistics of the United States,
1789-1945 (Washington, 1954).
- - - Current Popu lation R eports, Consumer Income, Series P -60, Nos.
9, 23, 24, and 26 (Washin g·ton, 1952, 1956, and 1957).
- - - Current Popiilation Reports, Lab or Force, Series P - 50, No. 73
(Washingto n, April 1957) .
- - - Current P opulation R eports, Labor Force, Series P- 57, Nos. 94
and 178 (Washin gton, April 1950 and May 1957).
- - - Current Popu lation R eports, Popu lation Cha1·acteristics, Series
P - 20 , Nos. 63 and 73 ( Washin g ton , 1957).
- - - Current Popiilation R eports, P opulation Estimates, Series P -25,
Nos. 71, 105, 127, and 135 (Washing-ton , 1953 , 1954, 1955, and 1956) .
- - - H istorical Statistics of the Uni ted States, 1789-1945 (Washington,
1949) .
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


United States-Continued
- - - Statistical Abstract of the United States: 1957, Seventy-eighth edition (Washington, 1957).
- - - Statistics of Cities Having a Population of Over 25,000, 1902 and
1903, Bull. 20 (Washington, 1905).
- - - United Stat es Census of Housing: 1950-U. S. Summary, General
Characteristics (Washington, 1953).
- - - United States Census of Population: 1950, Vol. I Ch. I (preprint)
Number of Inhabitants, U. S. Summary (Washington, 1952).
Children's Bureau. Child Labor Laws in the United States, T en Questions
Answered (Washington, Department of Labor, 1942).
Commission on Industrial Relations. Final Report and Testimony Submitted to Congress, Vol. I (Washington, 1916).
Congress. Joint Committee on the E conomic Report. Characteristics of
the Low-Income Population and R elated F ederal Programs, Selected
Materials Assembled by the Staff of the Subcommittee on Low-Income
Families (Washington, Joint Commitee Print, 1955).
- - - - - - H earings, Federal Tax Policy for Economic Growth and
Stability (Washington, 1955).
- - - Joint Economic Committee. January 1958 Economic R eport of the
President: Hearings before the Joint Economic Committee, 85th Cong.,
2d sess., 1958.
- - - Senate Committee on Finance. R etail Prices and Wages, Report
by Nelson W. Aldrich, July 19, 1892 (52d Cong., 1st sess., Senate Report
986, Pt. 3).
- - - - - - Whol esale Prices, VVage s and Transportation, Report by
Nelson W. Aldrich, March 3, 1893 (52d Cong., 2d sess., Senate Report
1394) , Pt. 1.
Department of Agriculture. Dietary Levels of Hous eholds in the United
States, Household Food Consumption Survey, 1955, Report No. 6
(Washington, March 1957).
- - - Dietary Studies in New York in 1895 and 1896, by Wilbur 0. Atwater and Charles Woods, Experiment Station Bull. No. 46 (Washington, 1898) .
- - - Diets of Families of Employed Wage Earners and Clerical Workers
in Cities, Circular 507 (Washington, January 1939).
- - - Family Food Consumption in the United States, Spring 1942, Misc.
Publication 550 (Washington, 1944) .
- - - Food Consumption of Hous eholds in the United States, Report No.
1 of Household Food Consumption Survey (Washington, December 1956).
- - - Food Consumption of Urban Families in the United States, Information Bull. 132 (Washington, 1955).
- - - Nutritiv e Content of City Diets, Special Report No. 2, based on food
consumption surveys of 1948-49 (Washington , October 1950) .
- - - Rural Family Spending and Saving in Wartim e, Misc. Publication
520 (Washington, 1943).
- - - Tr ends in the Consumption of Fibers in the U. S., 1892-1948, by
Barkley Meadows, Statistical Bull. 89 (Washington, Dec. 1950).
Department of the Interior. Abstract of Eleventh Census: 1890 (Washington, 1896).
Federal Communications Commi ssion.
Radio and Television Broadcast
Primer, Information Bull. No. 2 (Washington, April 1956).
Federal Housing Administration. Four Decades of H ousing With a Limited
Dividend Corporation (Washington, 1939).

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

United States-Continued
Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Series of Indexes of Hourly and
Weekly Earnings in Non-agricultural Industries in the United States
(New York, 1956 ).
Federal Works Agency. Public Roads Administration. Highway Statistics Summary to 1945 (Washington, 1947).
1st Annual Report (Washington,
Housing and Home Finance Agency.
- - - 8th Annual Report (Washington, 1955).
- - - 9th Annual Report (Washington, 1956).
- - - 10th Annual Report (Washin gton, 1957).
Interstate Commerce Commission. 70th Annual R epo1·t (Washington,
National Resources Committee. Consumer Expenditures in the United
States, Estimates for 1935- 36 (Washin gton, 1939).
- - - Consumer Incomes in the United States, Their Distribution in
1935-36 (Washington, 1938).
- - - Family Exp enditures in the United States, Statistical Tables and
Appendixes (Washington, 1941).
Office of Education . Adult Education for Foreign Born and Native Illiterates, Bull 36 (Washington, 1925).
- - - Digest of Annual Reports of the State Boards for Vocational Education to the Office of Education, Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1955
(Washington, 1955).
- - - Part-Time Secondary Schools, Bull No. 17, National Survey of Secondary Education, Monograph No. 3 (Washington, 1932).
President. Economic Report of the President, January 1958 (Washington,
President's Research Comm ittee on Social Trends. Recent Social Tr ends in
the United States, Vol. 1 (New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc.,
Public Health Service. Careers in Industrial H ealth (Washington, 1947).
- - - H ealth Manpower Chart Book, Publication 511 (Washington, 1957).
- - - Preliminary Report on Volume of Dental Care, United States, JulySeptember 1957, from the U. S. National Hea lth Survey, Health Statistics Series B2 (Washington, March 1958).
- - - Preliminary Report on Volume of Physician Visits, United States,
July-S eptember 1957, from the U. S. National Health Survey, Health
Statistics Series Bl (Washington, February 1958).
- - - Vital Statistics Special Reports, Vol. 48, No. 6, Abridged Life
Tables-United States 1956 (Washington, 1958).
Statutes at Large. Vols. 34, 42, 48, 49, 50, 52, 60, 67.
Works Progress Administration. Intercity Difj'erences in Costs of Living
in March 1935, 59 cities, Research Monograph XII, by Margaret Loomis
Stecker (Washington, 1937).
- - - Division of Social Research. Quantity Budgets for Basic Maintenance and Emergency Standards of Living (Washington, 1936).
World Health Organization . Constitution of the World H ealth Organization (Washi ngton, 1949).

Abbott, Edith and Associates. The Tenements of Chicago, 1908-1935 (Chicag·o, University of Chicago Press, 1936).
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Adams, H enry. Th e Education of H enry Adams, An Aut obiography (New
York, Book League Edition, 1928) .
Alderfer, E. B., a nd Michl, H. E. Economics of American Industry (New
York, McGraw-Hill Book Co., Inc., 1942).
· Amalg amated Clothing Workers of America. The Seventh Biennial Report
of the General E xecutive Board, 1924- 26.
American Medical Association. H ospital Serv-ice in the United States: the
1953 Census of H ospitals (Chicago, 1954).
Anderson, Odin W., and Fel dman , Jacob J . Family Med·ical Costs and Voluntary H ealth Insurance: A Nationwide Survey (New York, McGraw-Hill
Book Co., Inc., 1956).
Automobile Manufacturers Association. Automo bile Facts ancl Figures (Detro it, 1957).
Beard, Charles and Ma ry. A Basic History of the United S tates (New York,
The New Home Library, 1944).
Brant, Allen D. Industrial H ealth Engineer ing (New York, John Wiley &
Son s, Inc., 1947).
Budish, J. M. a nd Soule, G. The New Unionism in the Clothing Industry
(New York, Harcourt, Brace a nd Howe, 1920).
Bureau of Applied Economics, Inc. Standards of L iving, A Compilation of
Budgetary Studies (Was hington, 1920) .
Byington, Margaret F. Homes tead, the H ouseholds of a Mill Town (New
York, Ru ssell Sage Foundation, Cha rities Publication Committee, 1910).
Carskadon, Thomas R. , and Soule, George. U . S. A. in New D·i mensions: A
T wentieth Century Fund Survey (New York, Macm illan Co ., 1957).
Chapin, Robert C. The Standard of Living Among Workingmen's Families
in New York City, 1907 (New York, Russell Sage Foundation, Charities
Publication Committee, 1909).
Chotzinoff, Samuel. A Lost Paradise (New York, Alfred Knopf, 1955) .
Commager, H enry St eele. The American Mind, An Interpre tation of American Tho ug ht and Character Since t he 1880's (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1950).
Congress of Industrial Organizations. Proceedings, 8th Constitutional Convention (Wash ingto n , 1946).
Cu mmings, Ri chard Osborn. An American and His F ood (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1940) .
Davis, Michael M. Clinics, H ospitals and H ealth Cen ters ( New York,
Harper & Brothers, 1927).
DeForest, Robert W ., and Ve illers, Lawrence (eds.). The T enement H ouse
Problem (New York, The Mac millan Co., 1903), Vol. I.
Dewhurst, J. Frederick, and Associates . America's Needs and R esou1·ces, A
New Survey (New Yo rk, The T wentieth Century Fund, 1955) .
Dou glas, Paul H. Real Wages in the United States, 18.90-1926 (Bos ton,
Houghton Mifflin, 1930) .
Douglas, Paul H. , Hitchcock, Cu rt ice N., and Atkins, Willard E . The W orker
in Mod ern Economic Society (C hi cago, U niversity of Chica go P ress, 1923) .
Drucker, P eter F. The New Society, the Anatomy of the Industrial Order
(New York, Harper & Brothers, 1950).
Durand, John D. The L abor Force in the United States, 1890-1960 (New York,
Social Science R esearch Council, 1948) .
Editors of Fortune. The Changing American Market (Garden City, N. Y.,
Hanover House, 1955).

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Falk, I. S., Klem, Margaret C., a nd Sinai, Nathan. The Incidence of Illness
and the R eceipt and Costs of M edical Care Among Representative F amilies: Experiences in T welve Consecutive Months During 1928-31, An
Abstract of a Report Publish ed for the Committee on t he Costs of Medical
Care by the University of Chicago P ress (Washington, 1933) .
Furness, E. S. Th e Position of th e Laborer in a System of Nationalism
(Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1920 ) .
Gauss, Christian (ed.). Democracy T oday (New York, Scott, Foresman and
Company, 1917).
Goldsmith, R. W ., Brady, Dorothy S., and Mendersh ausen, Horst. A Study
of Saving in the United States (Princeton, N. J ., Princeton University
P ress, 1956), Vol. III .
Grattan, C. Hartley. In Quest of Knowledge-A H istorical Perspective on
Adult Education (New York, A ssocia t ion Press, 1955 ).
Hacker, Louis M. and K endrick, Benjamin B. The United States Since 1865
( New York, F. S. Croft and Co., 1932).
Handlin, Oscar. The Uprooted (Boston, Little, Brown a nd Company, 1951).
Hardman, J . B. S. No Ultimatum Ends, in Un-ions, Management, and the
Public, E . Wight Bakke and Clark K err, eds. (New York, Harcourt, Brace
and Co ., 1948), pp. 31-33.
Hardman, J. B. S. and Neufeld , Maurice F. (eds .). The H ouse of Labor,
Internal Operations of American Unions (New York, Prentice-Hall, Inc.,
The H ealth Insurance Co un cil. Th e Extent of Voliintary H ealth Insurance
Coverage in the United States, as of December 31, 1956 (New York, 1957 ).
H eller Committee for Research in Social E conomics . Quantity and Cost
Budgets (Berkeley, University of California, 1929).
- - - Quantity and Cost Budgets f or T w o Income L evels ( Berkeley, University of Californi a, 1956).
H erzfeld , Elsa G. F amily Monographs, Th e H istory of Twenty-Four F amilies
L iving in the Middle W est Side of New York City (New York, The James
Kempster Printing Co., 1905).
Hunter, Robert. T enement Cond itions in Ch icago (Chicago, City Homes
Association, 1901) .
Kennedy, E. D. Th e Automobile Industry (New York, Rey na] and Hitchcock,
Kennedy, J .C. Wages ancl Family Budgets in the Chicago Stockyards District,
with Wage Statistics from Other Industries Employing Unskilled Labor
(Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1914).
Kettering, C. F ., and Orth, A. American Battle for A bundance (Detroit,
General Motors, 1947).
Lamale, H elen Humes. Methodology of the Survey of Consumer Expenditures
in 1950 (to be publi shed by the Wharton School of the University of
P ennsylva nia in 1959).
Leva sseur, Emile. Th e American Wo rkman, translated by Thomas S. Adams
(Baltimore, The Johns Hopkin s Press, 1900).
Lewis, H. Gregg, and Dou glas, P a ul H . Studies in Consumer Expenditures,
Studies in Business Admini stration (Chicago, University of Chicago
Press, 1947).
Little, E sther Louise, and Cotton, Willi am Joseph. Budgets of Families and
Individuals of K ensing ton, Philadelphia (Lancaster, Pa., New Era Print•
ing Co., 1920).
Mill , J ohn Stuart. Principles of Political Economy, Ashley edition (New
York, Long mans, Gr een & Co., 1909).
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


More, Louise Bolard. Wage Earners' Budgets: A Study of Standards and
Cost of L iving in New York City (New York, H. Holt and Co mpany, 1907) .
National Accounts Review Committee. The National Economic Accounts of
the United States: Review, Appraisal and Recommendations (New York,
National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc., 1957).
National Association of Home Builders. Ho using . . . U. S. A. (New York,
Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation, 1954).
National Automobile Chamber of Commerce, Inc. Facts and Figures of the
Automobile Industry (New York, 1923).
National Commission on Adult Education Finance. Financing Adult Education in America's Public Schools (Washington, 1954).
National Industrial Conference Board. Company M edical and Health Programs, by Ethel M. Spears, Studies in Personnal Policy, No. 96 (New York,
- - - Th e Cost of Living Among Wage-Earners, Fall River, Mass., October
1919, Research Report 22 ( Boston, 1919).
National Safety Council. Accident Facts, 1957 Edition (Chicago, 1957).
Nevins, Allan. Forcl: The Times, The Man, The Company (New York,
Scribner, 1954).
Nug·ent, Rolf. Consumer Credit and Economic Stability (New York, Ru ssell
Sage Foundation, 1939).
Ogburn, William F. Budget for Bituminous Coal Mine Workers, 1920, in
Standards of Living, A Compilation of Budgetary Studies (Washington,
Bureau of Applied Economics, Inc., 1920).
Overstreet, B. W. The Free Lecture System of New York, in Adult Education in Action, Mary L. Ely, ed. (New York, American Association for
Adult Education, 1936), pp. 76- 78.
Owen, Wilfred. The Metropolitan Transportation Problem (Washington,
Brookings Institution, 1956).
Pierson, N. G. Principles of Economics, translated by A. A. Wotzel (London,
Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1902).
Plumley, Margaret Lovell. Growth of Clinics in the United States (Chicago,
Julius Rosenfeld Fund, 1932).
Pound, Arthur. The Turning Wh eel (Garden City, N. Y., Doubleday, Doran &
Company, Inc., 1934).
Price, Theodore H. The Cha in Grocery Store, in Se ven Articles by Theo. H.
Price (New York, Theodore H. Price Publishing Corp. [1919?]).
Purcell, Theodore V., S. J. Th e Worker Speaks His Mind on Company and
Union (Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1953).
Study of Consumer E xpenditures , Incomes and Savings: Statistical Tables,
Urban U. S.- 1950, tabulated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U. S.
Department of Labor for the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce,
University of Penn sylvania, 18 Vols. (University of Pennsylvania, 1956
and 1957).
Winslow, C. E. A. Th e E vo lution of Public Health and It s Ob jectives (Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1949).
Wood, Edith Elmer. The Housing of the Unskilled Wage Eanier (New York,
Macmillan Co., 1919).
Woytinsky, W. S. and Associates. Employment and Wages in the United
States (New York, The Twentieth Century Fund, 1953).

Articles and Periodica ls
Abbott, Grace. The Federal Government in Relation to Maternity and Infancy
(in Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science,

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

AFL-CIO News, September 7, 1957 (Washington, American Federation of
Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations).
Altmeyer, Arthur J. The Worker's Quest for Security (in Monthly Labor
Review, July 1950, pp. 31-37).
Automotive News, August 20 and October 8, 1956 (Detroit, Slocum Publishing
Co., Inc.).
Bell, Daniel. The Impact of Advertising (in Th e New L eader, Feb. 11, 1957,
pp. 9-11).
- - - The Worker and His Civic Functions (in Monthly Labor R eview, July
1950, pp. 62-69).
Bowden, Witt. Changes in Modes of Living (in Monthly Labor R eview, July
1950, pp. 23-30).
Brooks, John Graham. The Label of the Consumer League (in Publications
of the American Economic Association, Third Series, Vol. I, No. 1, Feb.
1900,pp.250-258) .
Burk, Marguerite C. Changing Food P atterns of the American People (in
The National Food Situation, Aug. 2, 1955, pp. 13-22) .
- - - National Food Survey of the United Kingdom and Comparisons with
Other British and American Food Data (in Agricultural Economics Research, July 1957, pp. 73-87).
Business Week, May 5, 1956 (New York, :WcGraw- Hill Publishing Co., Inc.).
Citizens' Business (Bulletin of the Bureau of Municipal Research of Philadelphia), Sept. 9, 1920, Apr. 7, 1921, and Apr. 5, 1923.
Clague, Ewan. The Shifting Industrial and Occupational Composition of the
Work Force During the Next Ten Years, an Address before the AFL-CIO
Conference on the Changing Character of American Industry, Washington, D. C., Jan. 16, 1958 (Washington, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1958) .
Construction, July and August 1951 (Washington, U. S. Bureau of Labor
Cost of Living in the United States (in Monthly Labor Review, May 1919, pp.
147- 165; June 1919, pp. 101-116; July 1919, pp. 75-114; Aug. 1919,
pp. 117- 119).
The Cotton Situation, CS-169, Apr. 1957 (Washington, U. S. Department of
Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service).
Current Labor Statistics (in Mo nthly Labor Review, Dec.1957, p.1545).
Douglas, Paul H. The Movement of Real Wages and Its Economic Significance
(in The American Economic R eview, Supplement, Mar. 1926, pp. 17-53).
Education of Adult Working Classes (in Monthly Labor Review, June 1921,
pp. 1301-1310).
Epstein, Albert S. The Impact of Emergencies on Labor Org·anizations (in
Monthly Labor Review, Oct.1951, pp. 388-393).
The E vening Sun, Baltimore, Jan. 4, 1954.
Brady, Dorothy S. Expenditures and Savings of City Families in 1944 (in
Monthly Labor Review, Jan.1946, pp.1-5).
Extent of the 5-Day Week in American Industry, 1931 (in Monthly Labor
R eview, Sept. 1931, pp. 1-6) .
Federal Reserve Bulletin, various issues reporting findings of the Surveys of
Consumer Finances, conducted annuall y, 1946-58; also Aug. 1957 issue.
The 5-Day Week in Ford Plants (in M onthly Labor Review, Dec. 1926, pp.
10- 14).
Gist, Noel P. Developing Patterns of Urban Decentralization (in Social
Forces, Mar. 1952, pp. 257-266).
Goldstein, Harold. Recent Trends in and Outlook For College Enrollments
(in Monthly Labor Review, Mar.1956, pp. 286-291).
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Good Housekeeping, October 1911.
Henderson, Harry. The Mass-Produced Suburbs: How People Live in America's Newest Towns (in Harper's Magazine, Nov. 1953, pp. 25-32).
High Fidelity: Next Year a $300,000,000 Industry (in Newsweek, Dec. 21, 1953,
pp. 66-67).
Housing Research, October 1952 (Washington, Housing and Home Finance
Housing Statistics, May 1957 (Washington, Housing and Home Finance
How People Spend Their Time (in Broadcasting T elecasting, Sept. 16, 1957,
p, 35).
Journal of the American Hospital Association: Hospitals Guide Issue, Pt. 2,
Aug. 1, 1956.
A Journal of Highway Research, Vol. 23, No. 2, Apr. 1942 (Washington, Public
Roads Administration).
Justice, Vol. XXXVII, No. 19, Oct. 1, 1955 (New York, International Ladies'
Garment Workers ' Union).
Karter, Thomas. Voluntary Agency Expenditures for Health and Welfare
from Philanthropic Contributions, 1930-55 (in Social Security Bulletin,
Feb.1958,pp.14- 18).
Knapp, Eunice M. City Worker's Family Budget for October 1951 (in
Monthly Labor R eview, May 1952, pp. 520-522).
Kravis, Irving B. Work Time Required to Buy Food (in Monthly Labor
Review, Nov. 1949, pp. 487-493).
Cost of Living in New York City in November 1920 (in Monthly Labor Review,
Feb.1921,pp.61- 66).
Ladies' Home Journal, February 1901 (Philadelphia, Curtis Publishing Co.).
Lamale, Helen Humes. Changes in Concepts of Income Adequacy Over the
Last Century (in Papers and Proc eedings of the Seventieth Annual
Meeting, American Economic Review, Vol. XLVIII, No. 2, May 1958, pp.
Lear, Walter J., M. D. Medical-Care Insurance for Industrial Workers (in
Monthly Labor R eview, Sept. 1951, pp. 251-257).
Meeker, Royal. What is the American Standard of Living? (in Mo nthly
Labor Review, July 1919, pp. 1-13).
Merriam, Ida C. Social Welfare Expenditures in the United States, 1955-56
(in Social Security Bulletin, Oct. 1957, pp. 3-12).
Murphy, Kathryn R. Characteristics of New I-Family Houses , 1954-56 (in
Monthly Labor R eview, May 1957, pp. 572-575).
New York T imes, The, January 28, 1957.
Pinkerton, Kathrene. The College That's Tailor-made (in Nation's Business,
Mar. 1950, Washington, Chamber of Commerce of the United States,
pp. 43-44, 78-79).
A Report on Trailer Living (in Consumet· Reports, Vol. 21, No. 3, March 1956,
Reynolds, Marcus T . The Housing of the Poor in American Cities (in
Publications of the American Economic Association, Vol. VIII, Nos. 2
and 3, Mar. and May 1893).
Saposs, David J. Voluntarism in the American Labor Movement (in Mo nthly
Labor Review, Sept. 1954, pp. 967-971).
Schiro, Bruno A. Housing Surveys in 75 Cities, 1950 and 1952 (in Monthly
Labor Review, July 1954, pp. 744-750).
Schwellenbach, Lewis B. Work and Policies of the Department of Labor,
1913-48 (in Monthly Labor Review, Mar. 1948, pp. 249-254).

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Smith, M. Mead. Financial Hardship Cases Handled by the Fight-Blig ht
Fund (in M onthly Labor R eview, Aug.1955, pp. 882-888).
Theodore, Ro se, a nd Gentry, John N. P aid Vacations in Major Un ion Contracts, 1957 (in Mon thly Labor R eview, July 1958, pp. 744-751).
The Startling Development of the Bi-Dimensional Theater (in Current Lit ernture, May 1908, pp . 546-549).
Steel Labor, July 1957 ( Pittsb urgh, United Steelworkers of America) .
Survey of Current B usiness, Bus iness Statistics, 1955 s uppl ement; Nationa l
Income, Supplem ent, 1954 edition; a nd February a nd Jul y 1957 iss ues
(Washington, U. S. Department of Commerce, Office of Bu s iness
E conomics) .
Time and Mo ney Costs of M eals Using H ome and Prekitchen Prepared F ood,
Statement from a Panel Di sc ussion at the 31s t Annual Agricultural Outlook Conference, Oct. 29, 1953 ( Washington , U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Human Nutrition and Home Economics) .
Union News, Feb. 18, 1957 (Norfolk, Virginia State Federation of Labor) .
Union Wage Scales in Building Trades, 1957 (in Monthly Labor R eview , February 1958, pp. 171- 175).
Vacation for Factory Worke rs (i n Mon thly Lab or R eview, Aug. 1921, pp.
Vacation with Pay for Workers (in Th e L iterary Digest, Sept. 11, 1920,
JI. 37).
Valesh, Eva MacDonald. The T enement Hou se Problem in New York (in
Th e Arena, Apr. 1893, pp. 580- 584) .
W e Spend About as Much for Fun as for Runnin g the Governme nt ( in Business
W eek, July 13, 1932, pp. 20-21).
Williams, Faith M. Standards a nd Levels of Living of City-Worker Families
(in Monthly Lab or R eview, Sept. 1956, pp . 1015-1023).
Wolozin, H arold. Use of Instalment Credit by City-Worke r Families in 1918
(in M onthly Lab or R eview, June 1957, pp. 712- 716).
Zeise!, Joseph S. The Workweek in American Indu stry ( in Monthly Labor
R eview, January 1958, pp. 23-29).
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis