Unlocked U.S. Census Offers Glimpse of Life in 1950 Including Gas Price

The 1950 U.S. Census data has finally been released after being locked away for more than seven decades, and shares an incredible snapshot into daily life at the time.

The decade is an era etched into the minds of most Americans, with recognizable fashion and technological advances set against the backdrop of the suburban nuclear family in white picket-fence homes.

On Friday the census records, which have remained under lock and key for 72 years, was published, revealing details about the 150,697,361 people, in 43 million homes, who made up America at the time. While the overall outlines of the census had been made public, the National Archives and Records Administration has now posted online the millions of forms.

Data, compiled by MyHeritage, revealed the most popular baby names at the time—with the post-war baby boom in full swing—were Mary, Linda, Patricia, Susan and Deborah for girls.

While for boys, James, Michael, Robert, John and David topped the list. The generation known as the boomers lasted until 1964, with the sharp increase in births first beginning in 1946.

MyHeritage graphic of 1950 life.
MyHeritage graphic of 1950 life. The census reveals popular names and even milk prices. MyHeritage

The post-war years were seen as a time of great prosperity and growth across the country, with the average annual family income at $3,300.

The average cost of mailing a letter was a mere 3 cents, a gallon of milk cost 83 cents, and in stark contrast to today a gallon of gas was 27 cents. Indeed, the global energy crisis has seen current prices skyrocket, reaching an average of $4.21 per gallon on Friday, according to AAA.

Back in the 1950s, two thirds of people over the age of 14 were married, with 28.9 percent of women above that age in the workforce.

The most popular jobs for women were school teacher, bookkeeper, worker in apparel factories, salesperson in retail trade, and stenographer, typist and secretary.

But the majority of working-age women listed "keeping house" as their occupation. Many would have been based in Chicago, Philadelphia, L.A. and Detroit, the most populous cities at the time, with New York City boasting the biggest population, at 15 million people.

Just 9 percent of households were classed as living alone, compared to 28 percent today, with the U.S. a much less diverse country, with 89.5 percent of the population classing themselves as "white."

The majority of immigrants came from Italy, followed by the USSR, then Canada and finally Germany.

Among the entrants, at least 26 million people who appeared in the census are still alive today.

Among them are famous celebrities and politicians, including acclaimed actress Meryl Streep and current U.S. President, Joe Biden.

MyHeritage went through the data and discovered former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and actor Harrison Ford only lived 0.2 miles apart, in Park Ridge, Illinois.

And singers Diana Ross and Aretha Franklin lived roughly 3 miles from each other in Detroit.

File photo of 1950s family.
File photo of 1950s family. U.S. census records have finally been unlocked after 72 years. George Marks/Getty Images