The Hidden Cost of Cheap Fast Food: $7B in Aid

Maybe those burgers aren't such a bargain, after all

By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff

Posted Oct 16, 2013 1:07 PM CDT | Updated Oct 19, 2013 1:28 PM CDT

(Newser) – Think that dollar menu is a bargain? All that cheap fast food comes with a hidden cost to taxpayers, according to a new report. Researchers at UC Berkley have found that low-paid burger-flippers cost US taxpayers $7 billion a year in social welfare programs, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. A recent study found 52% of the families of fast-food employees rely on some form of public assistance, compared with 25% of the general workforce. More than a quarter of employees are raising at least one kid. "Why should I have to rely on government assistance when I work as hard as anyone else?" says a 40-year-old Burger King employee and mother of two who earns $7.85 an hour.

"I rely on food stamps to eat at night," says a 21-year-old McDonald's employee who makes $7.25 an hour. "The CEO of McDonald's makes more in a day than I make in a year." The study found that the average American fast-food worker earns $8.69 an hour, and only 13% receive benefits like health care, reports the Guardian. "It doesn't matter whether you work or shop at McDonald's or not, the low-wage business model is expensive for everybody," says an analyst at the National Employment Law Project, which recently conducted a similar study. "Companies ... are basically pushing off part of their costs on the taxpayers."

A sign advertising job openings outside a McDonalds restaurant in Chesterland, Ohio.   (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta, File)
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