What Would $100 in Rent Get New Yorkers in 1940?

Written By Sarah Ford

Remember the time when your parents used to tell you stories about how prices were much lower when they were young?

Well, guess what? All those stories were true! Inflation and other factors, like increased production costs and higher demands, have significantly impacted the value of money over time.

It is fascinating to see just how much things have changed. While in some cases, prices of certain commodities (such as electronics, internet, etc.) have decreased, rents have generally increased.

If you, too, are wondering how much was rent in 1940 or what could you rent for $100 in 1940, here is everything you need to know!

1. How Much Was $100 in 1940 per Today’s Standards?

USD Inflation since 1940
Source: 1

Now you must be thinking, how much was $100 in 1940 as per today’s standard? According to recent inflation data, $100 in 1940 equals $2,136.93.  

Here’s how. 

The US dollar has lost 95% of its value since the 1940s. This means $100 in 1940 had much more purchasing power than today. Let’s dive in deeper to give you more details.

The prices between 1940 and the 2010s increased by more than 20 times. The cost of living has risen significantly due to various factors, including economic changes, population growth, and technological advancements.

For example, a gallon of gas that was 11 cents in 1940 is around $1.95 in 2023. A loaf of bread worth 8 cents in 1940 now accounts for $1.43. The inflation rate has affected everything from commodities to healthcare 

So, in a nutshell, the $100 in 1940 as of today would be much more worth it than that time. 

Here is a table for a better understanding of the different amount comparisons between 1940 and 2023

Initial valueEquivalent value
$1 in 1940$21.37 today
$5 in 1940$106.85 today
$10 in 1940$213.69 today
$50 in 1940$1,068.46 today
$100 in 1940$2,136.93 today
$500 in 1940$10,684.64 today
$1,000 in 1940$21,369.29 today
$5,000 in 1940$106,846.43 today
$10,000 in 1940$213,692.86 today
$50,000 in 1940$1,068,464.29 today
$100,000 in 1940$2,136,928.57 today
$500,000 in 1940$10,684,642.86 today
$1,000,000 in 1940$21,369,285.71 today

Source: 2


2. How Has the Rent Skyrocketed From 1940 to Now?

In 1940, according to historical data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the median rent for a room or apartment in New York City was around $35 per month.

According to Zillow’s data, this number has skyrocketed to a median of $3,400 monthly in 2023.

The median rent for a room in New York City in 1940 varied by the borough as follows:

  • Bronx: $31 per month
  • Brooklyn: $35 per month
  • Manhattan: $46 per month
  • Queens: $36 per month
  • Staten Island: $28 per month

Today, the median rent for an apartment in all 5 boroughs is:

  • Bronx: $1,600 per month
  • Brooklyn: $3250 per month
  • Manhattan: $4000 per month
  • Queens: $2,400 per month
  • Staten Island: $2,200 per month

The reason for this rise in rent can be attributed to various factors. Population growth has played a significant role in the rise of rent prices. As the number of people living in cities has grown, the demand for housing has increased. This has led to an increase in rent prices. That’s because landlords can now charge more due to the high demand for housing.

Another factor contributing to the increase in rent prices is the rising cost of construction materials. The cost of materials such as lumber and steel has increased. This has led to an increase in the cost of building new homes and apartments.

Additionally, inflation has played a significant role in the increase in rent prices. As the value of money decreased over time, landlords had to adjust their prices to keep up with the inflation and earn a living.

Lastly, the current state of the housing market has also contributed to the increase in rent prices. In recent years, there has been a shortage of housing inventory, which has led to available units. This has allowed landlords to increase rent prices, as tenants are willing to pay more to secure housing.

Source: 3, 4


3. What Would You Get for $100 in Rent in 1940 New York?

As per CUNY’s Center for Urban Research, the average rent price of an apartment across NY may have been $50. So, in 1940, $100 would have got you a modest apartment or a small room in a shared apartment in many neighborhoods of New York.

Even though it would have required a lot of searching and persistence to find one in a desirable location, it would still have been possible.

You would have found places even cheaper than this in the Lower East Side. However, around Washington Square Park, renting a room or apartment would have been a problem.

Editor’s Note: The amount of space and amenities you could get for $100 would have varied depending on the location and the specific apartment or room you were renting. For example, an apartment with updated appliances, a doorman, and other amenities would likely have been more expensive than a basic apartment without those features

3.1 Single Bedroom Apartment

You could have easily found a single-bedroom apartment with $100 in your pocket in the 1940s. According to historical data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the median rent for a room or apartment in New York City in 1940 was around $35 per month. So for $100 per month, you can easily rent a small apartment or a room in a shared apartment in many boroughs.

However, it’s important to note that rents, even in the 1940s, varied widely depending on the neighborhood and the apartment’s condition. Here is a breakdown of single-bedroom apartments in different boroughs.

  • Finding Single-bedroom apartments for $100 in 1940 Manhattan
Manhattan in the 1940s

Finding a single-bedroom apartment in Manhattan for $100 per month would have been difficult even in 1940. Rentals in neighborhoods like Times Square, Plaza, Fifth Avenue, etc., were $150 and above in 1940.

You would have had a better chance of getting a single-bedroom apartment in Northern Manhattan in 1940. So if you were somewhere in Washington Heights, Inwood, and Harlem, renting an apartment for $100 would have been more possible. These neighborhoods in the 1940s were predominantly home to working-class and immigrants. As a result, they have lower rent rates than other parts of the borough.

That said, even in the most modest buildings of all these neighborhoods, renting a single-bedroom apartment solely with $100 in your pocket would have been difficult. To afford the rent, you still must share the apartment with roommates or family members.

  • Finding Single-bedroom apartments for $100 in 1940 Brooklyn
Brooklyn in the 1940s

Finding a single-bedroom Apartment for $100 in the largest borough of New York, Brooklyn would have been challenging. However, you would have been more likely to find an apartment here than in Manhattan.

Brooklyn in 1940 was less densely populated and had more space available for housing. So there must have been more affordable options available. Neighborhoods such as Flatbush, East New York, Brownsville, and Crown Heights had lower rents than other parts of the borough; finding a single-bedroom apartment here would have been easier.

However, in neighborhoods like Flatbush and South Greenfield would have been difficult.

  • Finding Single-bedroom apartments for $100 in the 1940 Bronx
Bronx in the 1940s

In 1940 the Bronx was a more affordable borough than Manhattan and Brooklyn. It had many working-class neighborhoods with affordable living options.

For $100, you could easily rent rooms in South Bronx- Morrisania, Melrose, and Hunts Point. However, in neighborhoods like Riverdale and Westchester Heights, you would not stand a chance to even rent a room for $100.

  • Finding Single-bedroom apartments for $100 in the 1940 Queens
Queens in the 1940s

Queens in the 1940s were less densely populated than Manhattan and Brooklyn. There would have been more affordable options available; however, finding a single-bedroom apartment for $100 per month would still have been a stretch.

In neighborhoods like Astoria, Jackson Heights, and Elmhurst, there would have been a high possibility of getting lower rents as the properties were older and more modest. However, it’s important to note that even in these neighborhoods, $100 per month would have been considered a relatively low rent for a single-bedroom apartment.

  • Finding Single-bedroom apartments for $100 in the 1940 Staten Island

Staten Island in 1940 was a rural area with a lesser population. Renting a single-bedroom apartment for $100 would have been possible in the neighborhoods on the northern and eastern shores of Staten Island, such as St. George, New Brighton, and Clifton, due to the availability of more affordable options.

3.2 What about double-bedroom apartments?

To afford double-bedroom apartments for $100 in 1940, in all boroughs and neighborhoods, sharing an apartment with roommates or family members to afford the rent would be requisite. Also, you could get decent two-bedroom apartments in less convenient neighborhoods, mainly in the ones mentioned above.


All in all, to rent a single-bedroom apartment for $100 in 1940, you would have to:

  • Search for properties in less desirable or less convenient locations.
  • Use word-of-mouth or classified ads in local newspapers to find available apartments.
  • Negotiate with landlords directly to secure a lower rent.

Overall, while it’s possible that you could have rented a single-bedroom apartment in New York City for $100 per month in 1940, it would have depended on various factors and may not have been easy to find.


4. What Would You Get Today for an Equivalent of $100 in Rent in New York?

To answer this question, we first need to find out how much 1940 $100 is worth today.

According to a report by Curbed New York, $100 in 1940 would equal around $2,136 in today’s dollars.

In 1940, you could have rented a decent one or two-bedroom apartment in New York. However, compared to today’s prices, you cannot even own a studio apartment in the most popular localities with this price.

4.1 Studio Apartment

The current average price for a studio apartment in Brooklyn is $3258. 1940 $100 ( $2136 today) would have only covered a fraction of the monthly rent for even the smallest studio apartments.

However, in neighborhoods like Washington Heights, Flatbush, Harlem, West Harlem, Bedford, and Astoria, you can still find studio apartments within this budget.

4.2 Two-Bedroom Apartment

The median rent for a two-bedroom apartment (generally 600-1000 sq ft) in New York is approximately $5000.

In the 1940s, you could rent a two-bedroom apartment in New York City for around $50 to $60 per month, which is impossible with its equivalent today. The only places you can find a two-bedroom apartment at 1940 $100 equivalent price ($2136) are Washington Heights and East Harlem, which too basis the condition of the property.

4.3 One-Bedroom

As of 2023, the average cost for a one-bedroom apartment in New York City has increased to around $4,162 monthly.

This figure may seem steep, but it’s important to consider the significant increase in the cost of living and real estate prices in New York City over the past several decades. In 1940, $100 could get you a decent one-bedroom apartment in the city. Still, today you can only get a decent one-bedroom apartment in places like Washington Heights, Flatbush, Harlem, West Harlem, Bedford, and Astoria.

Editor’s Note: Exposed brick walls have become a highly sought-after feature in apartments due to their rustic aesthetic, and many landlords are willing to charge a premium for them. This is especially true in cities like New York, where space is at a premium and renters are often willing to pay more for unique features.

NeighborhoodStudio1 Bed2 BedAll
Washington Heights, New York, NY$2,000$2,300$2,700$2,675
East Harlem, New York, NY$3,000$2,750$2,895$2,995
Flatbush, New York, NY$2,272$2,800$2,800$2,999
Harlem, New York, NY$2,350$2,800$2,895$3,000
West Harlem, New York, NY$2,350$2,800$3,075
Astoria, New York, NY$2,626$2,800$3,050$3,050
Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York, NY$2,451$2,825$2,950$3,048
Upper East Side, New York, NY$2,569$3,500$4,795$3,750
Lower East Side, New York, NY$2,425$2,950$4,395$4,395
Murray Hill, New York, NY$3,250$3,930$4,250$3,995
Long Island City, New York, NY$3,155$4,005$5,774$4,047
Financial District, New York, NY$3,330$4,200$5,895$4,059
Downtown Brooklyn, New York, NY$3,267$4,002$5,695$4,155
Bushwick, New York, NY$2,619$2,963$3,150$3,200
Hell’s Kitchen, New York, NY$3,297$3,755$4,980$4,261
Kips Bay, New York, NY$3,426$3,750$4,595$4,295
NoLita, New York, NY$3,545$4,195$4,995$4,295
Midtown East, New York, NY$3,000$4,250$5,867$4,375
East Village, New York, NY$2,700$3,395$4,495$4,195
Williamsburg, New York, NY$3,899$4,498$4,200$4,400
Hudson Yards, New York, NY$3,707$4,263$6,383$4,485
Prospect Heights, New York, NY$3,595$4,370$6,650$4,505
Midtown, New York, NY$3,650$4,000$6,000$4,625
Midtown South, New York, NY$3,729$4,882$4,983$4,700
Upper West Side, New York, NY$3,100$4,316$6,031$4,795
Chelsea, New York, NY$3,890$5,018$6,495$4,895
Greenwich Village, New York, NY$4,200$5,300$5,110$5,200
West Village, New York, NY$4,025$4,673$6,250$5,495
NoMad, New York, NY$4,479$5,510$6,581$5,800
Gramercy Park, New York, NY$3,598$4,673$5,295$5,995
Average rent in various neighborhoods. Source: 5

Conclusion

$100 was worth a lot more in 1940 than it does today! Even its inflated equivalent cannot get you the properties you could get in 1940. However, it is not something new. Rents have been increasing decades after decades, giving rise to substantial increases in the total cost of living and, obviously, rents. Write down in the comment section below what you want us to compare next!

Written By:

  • An experienced marketing consultant with a decade of hands-on experience in real estate. You might catch her at a local jazz bar on a Friday night or at home experimenting with vertical kitchen gardens.

Leave a Comment

Table of Content