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Burgernomics 101: Big Data Is More Fun When Applied To Burgers

Locu finds it's the skinniest counties that have the largest per-capita burger offerings.

[Image: Flickr user Dennis Tang]

Some people have a hard time wrapping their heads around big data, but it's considerably more approachable when applied to burgers. Locu, a merchant finder service recently acquired by GoDaddy, has crunched the numbers—specifically 176,356 burgers—to give consumers the skinny on America's favorite food.

Back in the spring, Locu had released a report that looked at the correlation between hipsters and venues that sell PBR. For its next study, it decided to turn its focus to burgers. To learn more about America's obesity problem, the researchers behind the report, Burgernomics 101 (emphasis on the nom), analyzed burger trends in the 15 most populous states in the U.S. "What else can we learn from our data and how do we tie it into things that really matter in the world? The Burgernomics idea came through that," director of data Adam Marcus told Fast Company.

What he and his team found is that though cheeseburgers are the most popular type of burgers, it's the range of offerings and price points that correlate with waistlines. No surprise, Locu found a county is more likely to be obese if there's an abundance of cheap burgers. But more interesting, counties with more diverse burger choices—say buffalo or ostrich—have lower rates of obesity, and it's the skinniest counties that have the largest per-capita burger offerings. "The reason essentially relates back to food availability," Marcus explained.

Despite these findings, the report is quick to note, "We do not yet know which way, if any, the causality between food availability and obesity goes, but it does suggest we can improve our understanding of the world through the lens of food." The researchers conclude with a general hypothesis that more diverse food options correlate with healthier communities. Marcus admits burgers are a "quirky metric" for obesity, but he points to it as an example of how Locu's data can give deep insight into social issues, such as poverty and obesity, over time.

Not to mention, when burgers are in the equation, math is infinitely more fun. Take fractions, for example: If I eat half of your burger, then I will be that much more satisfied.

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