Planet Money
1:25 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

How Long Would You Have To Work To Buy A Burger In Your City?

Originally published on Thu April 17, 2014 2:49 pm

How long does the average person have to work to buy a burger in his or her neighborhood? The maps below answer that question for neighborhoods in six cities around the country.

We used average burger prices and average income by ZIP code to create the maps. The burger data come from Food Genius and include burger prices (fast-food and restaurant) for major cities in the United States for the month of January this year. The income data come from the census and include only people with full-time, year-round jobs. (This is part of the reason the income numbers may seem a bit high. Also, the average in high-income neighborhoods is pulled up by very high earners.)

Click, tap, or mouse over each neighborhood to see the numbers.

One thing the maps make clear: Average income varies more than the average price of a burger. So in fancy neighborhoods, burgers are a little more expensive — but incomes are way higher.

Ed Glaeser, an economist who studies cities, points out that the price of the average burger is determined largely by factors that don't vary much from one neighborhood to another, like costs to pay workers and buy ingredients. Other factors, like real estate prices, do vary between neighborhoods and account for some of the variation in burger prices.

For some neighborhoods, something else is at play. Trendy neighborhoods, like the Lower East Side in New York and Echo Park in Los Angeles, have residents who report low incomes but have fancy restaurants (with expensive burgers) because they're seen as destinations for higher-income residents from other neighborhoods.

But bottom line is: Residents in fancy neighborhoods don't have to work as long to buy burgers, even though burgers are more expensive in fancy neighborhoods.

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