Historical data


Economists and historians generally agree that the United States has experienced a number of historical periods that included both favorable and unfavorable economic conditions. Each period is also characterized by a variety of sociological changes, domestic political upheaval, technological innovation and exogenous shocks such as wars. Since 1790, we have identified 14 general economic periods, commented on a number of important events in each period, provided a brief CEPPI analysis and then ranked each period’s performance using the index. These periods include:


Period Years Period Economic Conditions Major Events EPI Max EPI Min EPI Average Perfomance
The Founding Years 1790-1811 Low inflation, average unemployment, budget surpluses, moderate growth in GDP Establishment of basic government institutions, Federalist vs. Jeffersonian debates, large agricultural economy, small industry. 99.4 81.6 92.7 Good
The War of 1812 1812-1815 A doubling of the inflation rate, (assumed) higher unemployment, significant budget deficits, lower growth in GDP Agricultural blockade, Burning of Washington, Capture of Detroit, Battle of New Orleans. 91.8 75.1 83.4 Fair
The Mid Industrial Revolution 1816-1860 Deflation, moderate (estimated) unemployment, budget surpluses, rapid GDP growth Panic of 1837, beginning of the Industrial Revolution, Manifest Destiny 104.4 83.9 94.1 Good
The American Civil War 1861-1865 High inflation, low estimated unemployment, large budget deficits and moderate GDP growth Civil War, Emancipation Proclamation 86.9 67.5 75.3 Poor
The Gilded Age 1866-1889 Deflation, moderate unemployment, budget surpluses and rapid GDP growth Reconstruction, the “Wild West,” Industrial Revolution, beginning of Labor Movement, rapid expansion of the Railroads, Sherman Antitrust Act 116.8 85.4 97.5 Excellent
The Progressive Era 1890-1920 Low inflation and budget deficits, moderate unemployment and GDP growth until WWI Federal Reserve Act of 1913, introduction of the Income Tax, Mass Production, World War I 109.6 66.1 93.0 Good
The Roaring 20’s 1921-1929 Low inflation, unemployment and budget deficits, high rate of GDP growth Mellon Tax Cuts, rapid growth of automobiles and telephones 108.0 76.4 96.8 Excellent
The Great Depression 1930-1940 Deflation and low inflation, very high unemployment, moderate budget deficits, two contractions in GDP followed by growth The New Deal, introduction of Social Security, broad based rise in business regulation 90.2 49.5 77.4 Poor
World War II and War Decommission 1941-1947 Moderate inflation, rapidly falling and low unemployment, unprecedented budget deficits, rapid GDP growth World War II, Nuclear Fission and the “atom bomb” 97.9 69.5 81.8 Fair
Post War Prosperity 1948-1967 Very low rates of inflation, unemployment and deficits combined with relatively high GDP growth The beginning of the Cold War; the Korean Conflict, the Beginning of the Vietnam War, peak of Labor Movement 101.6 88.8 96.9 Excellent
1st Modern Stagnation 1968-1981 Worsening economic performance marked by high rates of inflation, increasing unemployment, moderate budget deficits and slower growth in GDP The continuation of the Cold War, Vietnam War, the Great Society, Medicare, Medicaid, Watergate Scandal, Stagflation 95.1 78.5 88.0 Fair
Reagan Revolution and the New Economy 1982-2000 Low inflation, falling unemployment, moderate to high budget deficits and higher rates of growth in GDP Reagan Revolution, Escalation and end of the Cold War, Gulf War, NAFTA, rise of the Internet, Tech Bubble 99.7 78.8 90.9 Good
2nd Modern Stagnation 2001-present Relatively low inflation and unemployment, moderate budget deficits and slowing growth in GDP 9/11 Terrorist Attacks, Iraqi and Afghan Wars, Housing Bubble, Banking Crisis 94.8 76.8 88.7 Fair