Life in Portland Blog

The Mad Men Era: Cost of Living, Then & Now

Urban Nest's savvy Principal Broker Susan Zazzetti shared with us a fascinating cost of living comparison from the Mad Men era at this morning's meeting, and as a Brokerage not without its mid-century lovers, we thought you'd all find it to be of interest, too. Taken from Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors;

"Mad Men fans, this one’s for you. With the final season fast approaching and a number of characters potentially moving to start a West Coast office, NAR’s decided to explore housing costs from the 1960s and how the costs of that era compare to today.  

A few things we found fascinating: 

  • In 1960 the annual family income was $5,620. Consider that, at one point in the show, fictional ad man Don Draper was pulling in $45,000 a year plus a $2,500 bonus! In 2014 dollars that translates to an annual salary well above $350,000 a year.
  • During the Mad Men era, median home values in California and New York City in 1960 were relatively on par with one another—$74,400 in California and $75,400 in New York City. However, over the latter half of the 20th century, California saw its median home values rise to $211,500 by 2000, while the New York City median value was $148,700 for that time period. By 2010-2012, the values for California and New York jump to $385,800 and $286,700, respectively. 


  • Most of these types of infographics /studies bemoan how much cheaper it was in the olden days. But, in fact, cooling and electric costs are far cheaper today. By 1968, the price for residential electricity was 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour, which would be 15.2 cents in 2012 dollars. That price is well above what the average price per kilowatt hour was in 2012—11.9 cents.