The Big Mac Index is out again and not much has changed. Norway’s Big Macs are expensive and Chinese Big Macs are cheap.
What do Big Mac prices tell us about purchasing power? Starting with an average U.S. price of $4.37, we can determine whether other currencies are overvalued or undervalued in comparison to the dollar. So, when we see that Norway’s Big Mac is $7.84 and a euro zone Big Mac will cost $4.88, we know the kroner and the euro are overvalued. By contrast, Mexico’s Big Mac is very inexpensive at $2.90 and predictably, at $2.57, yes, a Big Mac reflects China’s undervalued currency.
Next, I wondered whether a low price would be inexpensive domestically and discovered that we can use McWages. In 2011, a US McDonald’s employee buying a Big Mac would have needed 27 minutes of work while a person in China doing the same job needed 85 minutes. You can see, below, that a McDonald’s Indian employee needed close to 200 minutes to buy what he or she was making.
Finally, as economists, we should note that the Big Mac Index takes us to purchasing power parity (PPP). This 2 page St Louis Fed paper, though dated, provides the perfect discussion of PPP and the Big Mac.
Sources and Resources: I definitely recommend going to The Economist to see all Big Mac prices and to use their interactive graphic on current and past purchasing power parity. More academic but fascinating, the Ashenfelter paper on McWage purchasing power is here while a good summary of the paper and the source of my graph is at WSJ.com.
Note: This post has been minimally edited since it appeared.
Posted by: adminEcon
Tags: Big Mac Index, China, exports, imports, McWages, Mexico, Norway, Orley Ashenfelter, overvalued, purchasing power, purchasing power parity, St. Louis Fed, The Economist, undervalued
In China, 1/2 liter of beer costs 9 minutes of work.
To calculate how many minutes of work it takes to buy beer in 150 countries, Swiss bank UBS researchers divided the median wage in that country by the price of 1/2 liter from a retailer. Their results? Beer drinking is most costly for workers in India (55 min.), Philippines (48 min.), Colombia (47 min.) and Nigeria (29 min.). At the other end of the list is the US (5 min.), Czech Republic (7 min.), Germany (8 min.), the Netherlands (9 min), and China (9 min.)
The UBS report reminded me that national beer consumption relates to affluence. According to the American Association of Wine Economists (yes, really) the connection between beer and per capita income is an upside down “U.” As individual incomes increase up to $22,000, so too does beer consumption. Then though, when wine and spirits become affordable, people move from beer to pricier liquor. Currently, nations with emerging markets represent two-thirds of the world’s beer consumption. (The ascent of China’s beer drinking curve in the graph below is striking.)
So, when anyone mentions beer, we can think about of purchasing power, economic growth and demand from the developing world.
A Final Fact: Beer has also been in the news as a source of government revenue. President Hollande just said France’s beer tax will rise by 160% to fund programs for young people and the elderly. Meanwhile, 2 years ago, after Russia spiked its beer tax by 200%, beer purchases declined.
Sources and Resources: This BBC article on the impact of the impending French beer tax was a good read as was the Economist’s details on the UBS beer cost study. More academic, the AAWE paper was the source of my beer drinking information about developing nations. Please note that all information from UBS and The Economist is current while data and the graph from the AAWE is from 2010 and before.
World Beer Consumption, 1961-2007
Posted by: adminEcon
Tags: American Association of Wine Economists, beer consumption, beer taxes, China, developing nations, economic growth, emerging markets, France, India, per capita income, purchasing power, Russia, The Economist, UBS, US