What better way could there be to judge a community than by the cost of a Quarter Pounder with Cheese?
NerdWallet.com could have chosen a Wendy's Frosty or maybe Popeyes' Red Beans and Rice as something to measure, but the ubiquitous McDonald's burger seemed to be the best way to judge cost of living in an easy to understand way.
NerdWallet.com explains how it came up with its new way to measure cost of living across America: "To make the relative cost of living more understandable and relatable, we created the Quarter Pounder Index (QPI), a basic cost of living guide that uses the price of a McDonald's Quarter Pounder with Cheese to gauge cost of living differences between cities. Like the Economists' Big Mac Index, which measures the purchasing power of various countries' currency, the Quarter Pounder Index compares places based on the cost of a hamburger."
The Economist's Big Mac Index began in 1986, by the way. "For example," the Economist explains, "the average price of a Big Mac in America at the start of 2013 was $4.37; in China it was only $2.57 at market exchange rates. So the 'raw' Big Mac Index says that the yuan was undervalued by 41% at that time."
The Quarter Pounder Index just is comparing the cost of the sandwich across the country. The median cost was $3.52. The cheapest place to find a Quarter Pounder with Cheese was Conway, Ark., where it costs $2.24.
The Juneau Empire reported on the upper end of the scale: "Currently, the price of a Quarter Pounder with Cheese at the McDonald's restaurant in Juneau is $4.99. But the amount listed by NerdWallet's QPI is $4.82, which website staff said was obtained from an average of the price over much of last year."
The Juneau Empire even made a bar chart graphic showing the differences in cost by using hamburgers with more or less patties depending on the cost.
The differences in prices for Quarter Pounders can also vary within a small geographic area. A quick call to various McDonald's restaurants in the Salt Lake area found prices varying from $3.69 up to $3.99.
The top five most expensive cities across the country, according to the Quarter Pounder Index, were Juneau, Alaska, at $4.82, Providence, R.I., at $4.52, Boston at $4.49, Nassau County, N.Y., at $4.36 and Anchorage, Alaska, at $4.35.
The five least expensive cities according to the index were Conway, Ark., at $2.24, Nashville-Franklin, Tenn., at $2.59, Martinsburg-Berkeley County, W.Va., at $2.63, Lafayette, Ind., at $2.78 and Los Alamos, N.M., at $2.81.