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The Growing Global Middle Class and the Persistence of Poverty (National Review)
August 28, 2018
By Reihan Salam
The Washington Post published a short piece highlighting the work of Homi Kharas, a scholar at the Brookings Institution best known for his work on the global middle class, which he defines as all those with incomes ranging between $11 and $110 per-person, per-day, or $4,000 to $40,000 per-person, per-year. If this range strikes you as rather wide, consider that it takes far more income to achieve middle-income status in the U.S. than in Indonesia, as the Post explains in its write-up.
Kharas’s work offers a lot of insight into social and political change in East and South Asia, the regions of the world that have experienced the biggest expansions in middle-income populations. Strikingly, the global middle class, as he defines it, now represents 48 percent of the population, while another 2.5 percent is even better off. Rising affluence in emerging economies is leading to rising expectations, which in turn is giving rise to business-model innovation and a hunger for reform.
While the expansion of the global middle class is unambiguously good news, the prevalence of poverty remains an urgent challenge. Jason Hickel, a left-wing anthropologist who sees capitalism as the bane of the world’s poor, and Charles Kenny, a researcher at the Center for Global Development I’d describe as a cosmopolitan center-left meliorist liberal (and who is much friendlier to market economics), have co-authored a postsussing out where they agree on the question of global poverty. It offers a useful complement to Kharas’s (entirely justified) celebration of the rising global middle class.