What is burgernomics and the Big Mac Index?

On March 30, Orley Ashenfelter of Princeton University presented a keynote talk in the Social and Behavioral Sciences Dean's Distinguished Lectureship series: "Real Wage Rates Around the World and Over (a Long) Time."

Measures of real wage rates --- how much product a worker can buy with a given period of work --- tell us how productive societies‎ are, and also how well off workers are. Professor Ashenfelter has cleverly compiled a "Big Mac index" that allows him to compare real-wage rates across countries by calculating how many Big Macs a McDonald's worker can buy with an hour's salary. After explaining the method and history of real wage rates, Professor Ashenfelter discussed a long term study of wages around the world using his Big Mac index. His work demonstrates that wage rates dramatically differ across countries. Professor Ashenfelter considered the implications of these differences for immigration, trade, and welfare.

Read about burgernomics in The Economist: http://www.economist.com/node/21556575


Orley Ashenfelter is one of the most influential architects of modern labor economics. He pioneered two widely used methods of analyzing data, natural experiments and program evaluation, and has used them to assess the impact of government training programs, the return to education, the impact of trade unions, and questions related to wages and employment, discrimination and labor supply. He is currently the President of the Society of Labor Economics (SoLE), and was the recipient of SoLE's Mincer Award for Lifetime Achievement. He has worked beyond academe to improve society, working at the Department of Labor, tutoring judges in statistics, and making his expertise available in court cases related to the labor market.

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