MeasuringWorth evolved as a spinoff from the EH.Net website that was created in the 1990s by Samuel H. Williamson (with the help of a grant from the NSF) to be a source of useful tools for economic historians including data sets, an encyclopedia, discussion and announcement lists, book reviews and a form called “Ask the Professor.” From the beginning, most of the questions were of the form “My grandfather sold our farm in 1927 for $2,000, what is that worth today?”
Realizing that the many “inflation calculators” for the most time were giving misleading answers, in 2002, Williamson created a comparator titled “What is the Relative Value? Five Ways to Compare the Worth of a United States Dollar, 1789 – Present.” The comparator explained that the answer(s) to the question depended on the what the relative “worth” the questioner was thinking about, such as current wage, wealth, “cost of living.” In the next few years, Williamson was joined by Lawrence Officer and the “Ask the Professor” was spun off the EH.Net website to become MeasuringWorth.
There are two missions of this site. The first is to make available to the public the highest quality and most reliable historical data on important economic aggregates, with particular emphasis on nominal (current-price) measures, as well as real (constant-price) measures. The data presented here on the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, have been created using the highest standards of the fields of economics and history, and they were rigorously refereed by the most distinguished researchers in the fields. The second is to provide carefully designed comparators (using these data) that explain the many issues involved in making value comparisons over time.
The emphasis on nominal measures distinguishes this site. This attention is important because to evaluate a past transaction or asset, one must begin with the contemporary value of the item. To make this valuation meaningful, it must be measured against the value of the appropriate economic indicator in that year. To understand the valuation from another year's perspective, one must carry that measure forward against the changing value of the indicator. The essay Measures of Worth, the Tutorials, and the User Guide are all designed to help you make the best use of the site.
In December 2019, The MeasuringWorth Foundation became the owner of the MeasuringWorth website.
The MeasuringWorth Foundation
The MeasuringWorth Foundation is a non-profit corporation. The Foundation is the owner and operator of the MeasuringWorth website. It is responsible for the site's content and long-term survival. The current members of the foundation's Board of Directors are listed below. The board works with the staff of MeasuringWorth to guarantee the operation and funding of the site.
Also listed below is the MeasuringWorth Panel of Supporters, a group that along with the current board have supported the site and its mission over the years. The Panel includes current and former presidents of the Economic History Association, Economic History Society, and International Economic History Association. Economic historians from around the world use the site for research and teaching; all feel this site is a valuable endeavor that must be maintained.
In 2022, the board appointed Sam Allen as the Executive Director of Measuring Worth. Sam Allen is also professor of economics, at VMI (Virginia Military Institute) in Lexington, Virginia.
At the same time, Sam Williamson stepped down as President of Measuring Worth, and in now President Emeritus.
Board of Directors
Leticia Arroyo Abad, City University of New York – Queen's College
Jeremy Atack, Vanderbilt University
Lee Craig, North Carolina State University
Anne McCants, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Board Chair
Katharine Shester, Washington & Lee University
Joanna Short, Augustana College
Judy Stephenson, University College London
Sam Williamson, (co-founder), Miami University (Emeritus)
Panel of Supporters
Lee Alston, Indiana University
Stephen Broadberry, University of Oxford
Louis Cain, Loyola University Chicago
Greg Clark, University of California, Davis
Price Fishback, University of Arizona
Roderick Floud, University of London
Robert Gordon, Northwestern University
Deirdre McCloskey, Cato Institute
Joel Mokyr, Northwestern University
Larry Neal, University of Illinois
Lawrence Officer (co-founder), University of Illinois
Leandro Prados de la Escosura, Universidad Carlos III
Richard Sylla, New York University
Jeffrey Williamson,, Harvard University
Gavin Wright, Stanford University
Sam Allen is our Executive Director
Jeremy Land is our Secretary/Treasurer
Dan DeGreef is our Webmaster
Jeffrey Moy is our Research Assistant
Benjamin Hogewood is our Web Editor