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How Many Hours Does It Take a McDonald’s Worker to Afford a Big Mac? — Dollars and Sense

big mac mcdonald's fast food hamburger
Spencer Platt, Getty Images

Economics can complicate the world’s most enlightened mind. They often involve complex equations with more numerals and variables than the theory of relativity.

However, one study has found a rather novel way of measuring and comparing the rise and fall of wages and it involves McDonald’s most famous sandwich.

Princeton University professor Orley C. Ashenfelter published a study he conducted through the National Bureau of Economic Research, examining the wages of McDonald’s workers. He then compared how long it took each nation’s employees to buy a single Big Mac from their employer.

Naturally, the poorer countries took a longer amount of time to earn enough money for the sandwich. However, the differences between richest and poorest can seem a bit staggering. For instance, Indian employees had to work 195 minutes to buy a Big Mac, but America’s employees only required 27 minutes of work.

Ashenfelter said the Big Mac model made for a perfect comparison because it is one of the few jobs across the world where employees are asked to do the same task for different wages.

The study not only measures wages, but also the growth of those wages and other economic data in developing countries. For instance, even though wages for India and China grew by nine and eight percent, respectively, from 2000 to 2007, they slowed to a very painful crawl from 2007 to 2011.

India also saw an increase in the amount of time required to buy a Big Mac from 168 minutes in 2007 to 195 minutes in 2011. Even the US and the whole of western Europe lost ground in the Big Mac buying race.

[The Wall Street Journal]

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