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Where can I find historical statistics on the cost and standard of living?

Historical prices can be a little hard to locate, and you may need to check a number of sources to get all the figures you want. Figures are dependent on the records kept at the time which can be inconsistent. Many prices for everyday commodities were fixed by government regulations, and any changes were published in State government gazettes and then reported in the newspapers. Some figures can also be found in newspaper adverts or magazines.

State year books often included prices of specific commodities. For example, for New South Wales figures, the average prices of bread and milk, the wholesale cost of petrol and house rentals (not sales), and the average basic wage can all be found in the Official Year Book of New South Wales. However, not all the States produced year books nor were they produced every year.

House prices are a bit harder to put a definite figure on. Then, as now, prices differed widely according to suburb, size of house, features etc. Newspapers are often the best source for this type of information. Another resource available for prices predominantly in Sydney and Melbourne is Long term housing prices in Australia and some economic perspectives.

Other general resources include:

State Library of Victoria Research Guide What it use to cost

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) feature article Prices in Australia at the beginning and end of the 20th century was published in the 2001 ABS Year Book.

The ABS Historical Publications Index

A couple of useful print items include:

Australia in fact and figures and Australians, historical statistics

Trove can help you find and get items at libraries near you. See the FAQ What is Trove and how can I use it?

The National Library can provide copies of certain materials and interlibrary loans for registered users. For more information go to our Copies Direct service.

See also the FAQ How can I calculate the current value of old money?

Find this topic in E-Resources.

Last update: 2011-01-12 11:38
Author: General Reference Enquiry