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The Middle Muddle: Conceptualizing and Measuring the Global Middle Class

23 Pages Posted: 24 Nov 2015  

Arjun Jayadev

University of Massachusetts Boston - Department of Economics

Rahul Lahoti

University of Goettingen (Gottingen)

Sanjay G. Reddy

The New School - Department of Economics; Initiative for Policy Dialogue (IPD)

Date Written: November 23, 2015

Abstract

Interest in the emergence of a global middle class has resulted in a number of attempts to identify and enumerate who belongs to it. Current research provides wildly different estimates about the size and evolution of the global middle class because of a lack of consensus on appropriate identification criteria for a person to be deemed to be middle class. We identify three competing and often conflated understandings in the literature on the subject. We further argue that for at least two of these understandings, the literature has been using inappropriate thresholds for identification. Using data from the Global Consumption and Income Project, we provide estimates of the size, composition and evolution of the global middle class for three competing understandings and contrast these to existing estimates.

Keywords: global middle class, income distribution, consumption, inequality

JEL Classification: D30,D31,D60, D63, E21,O50, O10

Suggested Citation

Jayadev, Arjun and Lahoti, Rahul and Reddy, Sanjay G., The Middle Muddle: Conceptualizing and Measuring the Global Middle Class (November 23, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2694624 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2694624

Arjun Jayadev

University of Massachusetts Boston - Department of Economics ( email )

100 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125
United States

Rahul Lahoti (Contact Author)

University of Goettingen (Gottingen) ( email )

Platz der Gottinger Sieben 3
Gottingen, D-37073
Germany

Sanjay G. Reddy

The New School - Department of Economics ( email )

Room 1116
6 East 16th Street
New York, NY 10003
United States

Initiative for Policy Dialogue (IPD) ( email )

New York, NY
United States

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