LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Since 1948, War Memorial Stadium has gone through a few changes from its capacity to its modern conveniences, but the world around it has changed much more.
As the historic landmark celebrates its 75th anniversary, our station sought to compare the year it was built to 2023, and some of the differences may surprise you.
According to U.S. Census records, the median home value in Arkansas unadjusted for inflation was $4,087 in 1950. It changed to $142,100 from 2017-2021.
Michael Pakko Ph.D., Chief Economist and State Economic Forecaster at the Institute for Economic Advancement at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, did the research for comparison.
He says one of the first things economists look at over time is the effects on inflation because it is one change consumers quickly notice.
“If you look at say the prices of some groceries back in 1948, round steak was 89¢ a pound, porkchop 92¢ a pound, hamburger 61¢ a pound. Milk, this is an interesting one. Milk was 22.7¢ a quart, and that was delivered. If you went to the grocery store you could get it for a penny cheaper,” Dr. Pakko said.
Some products gained their popularity at the time Dr. Pakko added. Butter was 89.5¢ a pound while margarine was about 42¢.
“Actually, it was in 1948 that price differential really began to make an impact on the substitution between butter and margarine,” Dr. Pakko said.
According to Dr. Pakko, when it comes to inflation there has been an 1150% increase in prices throughout the 75 years since War Memorial Stadium is built. However, he adds that doesn’t tell the full story.
“Before you think everyone could afford all they want at the time of course income has also increased significantly over that period,” Dr. Pakko said.
His research shows the annual median family income was about $3,200 in 1948. Now, it is over $70,000. That’s an over 2000% increase in income.
“One of the things you might think about is also the goods that simply were not even available on the market in 1948. 1948 was the year that the first programmable computer was tested, and it was the size of a room. The television was still in its experimental phase, and now we have both of those technologies carried around in our pockets at all times,” Dr. Pakko added.
He says War Memorial Stadium was built for $1.2M. In today’s dollars, if you were to build it he says it would cost over $15M.
“At the time that War Memorial opened in September of 1948, the country had just gone through a round of about two years of rapidly increasing prices. With the end of the war and the price controls lifted, there were supply constraints. Inflation was rampant. The Fed tightened policy, and that brought down the inflation a little bit, but by the end of 1948, the economy was in a recession. So at least the precursor to that situation seems very similar to the conditions today with the exceptions of the impending recession,” Dr. Pakko said.
Additionally, people today have generally longer to enjoy all these things.
“Back in 1948, (life expectancy) was about 67 years. Now, it’s 76 years, so it’s gone up about nine years in that three-quarters of a century,” Pakko said.