NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 15, 2006

Little has changed in world purchasing power since 2003, with the exception of perennially expensive U.S. cities like New York and Chicago falling from the top, largely as a result of a weaker dollar, according to Swiss banking giant UBS.

Using the Big Mac index, the authors found it takes an average of 35 minutes of work to buy the burger globally, but disparities are huge:

  • In Nairobi, 1 1/2 hours of work are needed to buy the burger with the net hourly wage there.
  • In the U.S. cities of Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Miami, a maximum of 13 minutes' labor is needed, with Los Angeles having the most purchasing power.
  • In Tokyo, it takes a mere 10 minutes; Bogotá, Colombia, came in last among the 70 cities surveyed at 97 minutes.

The UBS survey also rated the most expensive city based on the cost of a basket of 122 goods and services, excluding rent. Researchers found:

  • Oslo, Norway, was the most expensive, followed by London, Copenhagen, Denmark, Zurich, Tokyo, Geneva and New York.
  • The least expensive cities were Manila, Delhi, Buenos Aires and Bombay.

The bank also compared wages, using New York -- in fifth place -- as the base with an index of 100.

  • Copenhagen was first, with an index of 118.2, followed by Oslo, Zurich and Geneva; London was in sixth, followed by Chicago, Dublin, Frankfurt and Brussels.
  • At the other end was Delhi with an index of 6.1.

Source: Alexander G. Higgins, "A Tokyo paycheck buys the most," Houston Chronicle, August 15, 2006


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