Quarter Pounder Index: The Most and Least Expensive Cities in America

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by on May 12, 2013

When is a dollar worth more than a dollar?  When you’re in a city where the cost of living is low.  The purchasing power of the dollar varies widely across U.S. cities, and a cost of living calculator reveals that it costs more than twice as much to live in  Manhattan as it does to live in Memphis.

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.

When the most and least expensive cities for a quarter pounder with cheese are graphed, the differences are striking:

  • A McDonald’s burger costs more than twice as much in Juneau, Alaska as it does in Conway, Arkansas ($4.82 vs $2.24).
  • Hawaii and Alaska take 40% of the top ten most expensive places, likely because of the increased shipping costs of these more remote states.
  • The median price for a quarter pounder with cheese is $3.52

Ten most and least expensive places to get a quarter pounder with cheese

Most expensive places in the United States, according to the QPI

 

Rank State City Price of a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese
1 Alaska Juneau $4.82
2 Rhode Island Providence $4.52
3 Massachusetts Boston $4.49
4 New York Nassau County $4.36
5 Alaska Anchorage $4.35
6 Alaska Fairbanks $4.28
7 New Hampshire Manchester $4.28
8 Washington Vancouver $4.25
9 Maine Portland $4.23
10 Hawaii Honolulu $4.20
11 Arizona Bullhead City $4.19
12 Massachusetts Framingham-Natick $4.19
13 Colorado Glenwood Springs $4.14
14 Oregon Portland $4.09
15 California San Diego $4.08
16 Connecticut Hartford $4.08
17 New York Dutchess County $4.06
18 Connecticut New Haven $4.03
19 Kansas Hays $4.03
20 Kansas Dodge City $4.02

 

Least expensive places in the United States, according to the QPI

Rank State City Price of a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese
1 Arkansas Conway $2.24
2 Tennessee Nashville-Franklin $2.59
3 West Virginia Martinsburg-Berkeley County $2.63
4 Indiana Lafayette $2.78
5 New Mexico Los Alamos $2.81
6 Florida Jacksonville $2.84
7 Texas Corpus Christi $2.89
8 Florida Gainesville $2.91
9 Georgia Savannah $2.92
10 South Carolina Anderson $2.92
11 Iowa Iowa City $2.94
12 Georgia Douglas $2.95
13 Ohio Akron $2.96
14 Alabama Dothan $2.99
15 Oklahoma Enid $2.99
16 Louisiana Lafayette $3.00
17 North Carolina Gastonia $3.01
18 North Carolina Marion-McDowell County $3.02
19 South Carolina Beaufort $3.02
20 Tennessee Knoxville TN $3.02

Methodology: This data came from the ACCRA Cost of Living Index, which includes over 300 cities.

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