Economists have long looked to global restaurant behemoth McDonald’s as a useful tool to mine data. The Big Mac index, for instance, was invented to measure whether world currencies are over- or undervalued. A new study suggests that McDonald’s in Europe might also be used to help gauge the entrepreneurial level of certain areas.
McDonald’s has a varied customer base, hires immigrants and, at least in Europe, is seen as a symbol of “cosmopolitanism and a modern urban lifestyle,” note economists at the University of Amsterdam. So a large number of McDonald’s in a region “may be used as a proxy for the openness and international connectedness of the region.” Researchers used that location data to help prove there is a link between innovation (measured by the number of patents filed) and areas with diverse groups of immigrants from regions with high skill levels. In other words, if you want to set up shop in an idea-rich part of Europe, McDonald’s may have already identified the best locations.