This afternoon, Susie and I spent some time, with the aid of Google Maps, looking at street views of the houses we grew up in in Queens, New York, back in the '40s. I managed to call up a perfect picture of 138-37 76th Avenue, in Kew Gardens Hills, the tiny row house I moved into with my family in 1940 and lived in until I went off to Harvard in 1950. That brick house was a three bedroom one and a half bath home [the third bedroom, mine, was rather smaller than a walk-in closet] that cost my parents, new, $5999, including extra for a fireplace. Everything looks the same except for the tiny tree on the postage stamp front lawn, which has now grown to tower over the house and obscure the view from the street. The convenient on-line CPI calculator tells me that in 2014 dollars, that $6000 price for the house would be about $102,000.
Curious what property was selling for in that neighborhood, I did a bit of Googling, and came up with a larger house [four bedrooms, two baths, brick attached] on the other side of Main Street. I imagine it might have gone for $12,000 back in the day, or maybe $250,000 today. The current price tag on the house, which actually looks rather run-down, is $888,000!
My parents were able to afford our house on two salaries -- my father's as a high school teacher and my mother's as a secretary. There is no way that such a couple today could afford to live in that neighborhood.
By the way, tuition at Harvard my first year, 1950-51, was $400. No CPI calculator in the world that can convert that into today's Harvard tuition. Thomas Piketty remarks in passing, presumably on the basis of accurate data, that the average annual income of today's Harvard student is $400,000.
I do not think I recognize today's world as the world I grew up in.