What Hamburgers Say About Your Neighborhood

Last week, we broadcast planetmoney’s story on gTLDs. Read our post about the ever expanding Internet! This week’s post returns to Planet Money for inspiration (because it’s a really excellent source for finance stuff that you can check out here).

This is a hamburger (in desperate need of “the works”).

Any red blooded American meat-eater will tell you this premise is a “juicy” one: “How Long Would You Have to Work to Buy a Burger in Your City?”

All puns aside, is this is a good question? Sure. Some of the findings are predictable, but others will certainly provide plenty of food for thought! Zing!

If you’re curious, the data was collected by matching average income by zip code with average burger prices.

Across the board, from east coast to west coast, the findings are the same. In higher income areas, it takes considerably less time to earn enough for a burger. Not a surprise, really. This is what the article has to say:

“… Residents in fancy neighborhoods don’t have to work as long to buy burgers, even though burgers are more expensive in fancy neighborhoods.”

For example, in the Upper East Side in Manhattan the average income is a little more than $75 an hour, and burger prices hover around $9 or about $3 more than in surrounding areas with lower income averages. Of course, $3 more for a burger while an increase isn’t astronomical.

So that’s good news, right? Even an expensive burger is still fairly affordable no matter how much you make. Correct! Know why? The ubiquitously low cost of making and selling burgers. It’s pretty cheap.

Which leads us to another conclusion. Uniformity in hamburger costs means hamburgers are not a good indicator of wealth whereas something like housing which varies a great deal by zip code is. But we’re not looking at real estate costs, we’re looking at hamburgers, and there is still a lot to take away from these findings.

Hipsters in Brooklyn are broke, pay a lot of money for hamburgers and spend their time making Mexican hats. True story.

In trendy neighborhoods with lower incomes, burger prices may still be relatively high (higher than  expected) because the restaurants in those neighborhoods attract people who earn more. In the real world, these are areas like Echo Park in L. A. and the Lower East Side in Manhattan–you know, trendy places. In Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for example, the average wage is about $29 an hour while burgers still cost as much as they do in Manhattan.

An interesting exercise would be to see if you could predict the neighborhoods where gentrification is an issue  just by looking at the map. Hint: Higher burger costs, lower average income is a good place to start.

All in all, this is a pretty interesting read and the graphs are excellent. All of the information is there. What is it telling you and what do you think of our post? Write us back in the comments section! Thanks and have a great week!




About the author

Seattle CPA+John Huddleston has written extensively on tax related subjects of interest to small business owners. Since 2002, he has owned his own small business, Huddleston Tax CPAs. He is a graduate of Washington State University and the University of Washington School of Law.

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