Special Report

States Where People Can't Afford a Big Mac

The Big Mac has been on the menu of McDonald’s, the largest fast-food chain in America, since 1967. It is the most famous sandwich in American cuisine. Back in 2007, on the sandwich’s 40-year anniversary, the company estimated it sells 550 million Big Macs a year in the U.S. alone. More are sold worldwide.

The two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun sandwich is so ubiquitous that each year The Economist publishes The Big Mac Index, which uses Big Mac prices to approximate cost of living, or purchasing power, in nations around the globe.

In the United States, prices of the Big Mac vary as well. And though it is supposed to taste the same whether you live in Hilo, Hawaii, or Bangor, Maine, the affordability of a 550-calorie Big Mac varies widely from state to state. (The price of this household item is soaring.)

To identify the “true cost” of a Big Mac in each state, 24/7 Wall St. adjusted Big Mac prices in each state by the state’s disposable income per capita (income after taxes) and cost of living. (The true cost, in other words, means that if all U.S. residents earned the same income, paid the same taxes, and had the same cost of living, then this is how much they would pay for the Big Mac considering the Big Mac price in their state.”) The 50 states and the District of Columbia are ranked by the “true cost” of a Big Mac.

The average price of a Big Mac nationwide was $5.15 in July. Prices in each state range from $3.91 to $5.35, while the true cost of a Big Mac ranges from $3.40 to $6.15. The national per capita disposable income was $55,671 in 2021, and ranges from $41,916 to $81,193. The cost of living ranges from 12% lower than the national average to 12% higher.

The true cost of a Big Mac is highest in the East Coast states of New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware, and Vermont, as well as in the Southwest states of Arizona and New Mexico and in the Western states of Oregon, California, and Hawaii.

The actual cost of the iconic burger is at least 20% lower than the national average in 16 states. Mississippi has the lowest actual cost at $3.91, more than 24% lower than the national average price, but after adjusting for the state’s lowest disposable income and lowest cost of living, the “true cost” of a Big Mac is 18th highest of all states at $4.56.

Big Mac fans in Hawaii will have to dig deepest to sink their teeth into the famed burger. Already the Big Mac in the state is the second most expensive at $5.31. The “true cost” of the sandwich after adjusting for the state’s highest cost of living and middling disposable income is a whopping $6.15. (See also the price of gas every year since 1990.)

Click here to see states where people can’t afford a Big Mac.

Click here to see our detailed methodology.

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