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Wealth & Poverty Review You get 22 bicycles today for the time price of one in 1910.

We have 345 percent more people on the planet today than 1910, but we are enjoying 9,725 percent more global bicycle abundance. Originally published at Substack

In 1910 you could buy a bicycle for $11.95 from the Sears Roebuck catalog. This sounds like a good deal until you realize that blue-collar hourly compensation (wages and benefits) was 18 cents an hour. This means that it would take 66.4 hours to earn the money to buy one bicycle.

Today you can buy a bike at Walmart for $98. The nominal price has increased by 720 percent. But blue-collar hourly compensation has increased 17,978 percent to $32.54 per hour. This puts the 2022 time price at around three hours. If the time price of a bicycle had stayed the same since 1910, one would cost around $2,160 today. (66.4 hours x $32.54)

The time price has fallen by 95.5 percent from 66.4 hours to 3 hours. For the time require to earn the money to buy one bicycle in 1910, you will get 22 today. This represents a 2,104 percent increase in bicycle abundance on a personal level.

This astonishing increase in personal bicycle abundance occurred while global population increased 345 percent from 1.75 billion to 7.8 billion. Global bicycle abundance can be measured by multiplying personal abundance by the population size. Global bicycle abundance grew 9,725 percent from a base value of 1.75 in 1910 to 171.94 in 2022. For every one percent increase in population, bicycles have become 28 percent more abundant.

Another way to think about bicycle abundance is how much time it took for everyone to have a bicycle today versus 1910. In 1910 it would have taken 116.8 billion hours. Today it would only take 23.49 hours. The total time has declined by almost 80 percent.

Gale Pooley

Senior Fellow, Center on Wealth & Poverty
Gale L. Pooley teaches U.S. economic history at Utah Tech University. He has taught economics and statistics at Brigham Young University-Hawaii, Alfaisal University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Brigham Young University-Idaho, Boise State University, and the College of Idaho. Dr. Pooley serves on the board of