“The Economist’s Big Mac Index is based on the theory of purchasing-power parity: in the long run, exchange rates should adjust to equal the price of a basket of goods and services in different countries. This particular basket holds a McDonald’s Big Mac, whose price around the world we compared with its American average of $4.20. According to burgernomics the Swiss franc is a meaty 62% overvalued. The exchange rate that would equalise the price of a Swiss Big Mac with an American one is SFr1.55 to the dollar; the actual exchange rate is only 0.96. The cheapest burger is found in India, costing just $1.62. Though because Big Macs are not sold in India, we take the price of a Maharaja Mac, which is made with chicken instead of beef. Nonetheless, our index suggests the rupee is 60% undercooked. The euro, which recently fell to a 16-month low against the dollar, is now trading at less than €1.30 to the greenback. The last time we served up our index in July 2011, the euro was 21% overvalued against the dollar, but it is now just 6% overvalued. Other European currencies have also weakened against the dollar since our previous index, notably the Hungarian forint and Czech koruna, which have fallen by 23% and 16% respectively. Six months ago both currencies were close to fair value, but they are now undervalued by 37% and 18%.
Have your senior students read the Economists’ description of the Big Mac Index and have a discussion about what they think it means. It would be helpful to have a PhD in economics to comment but why not see what response your students can generate?