The world is experiencing a structural change on an unprecedented scale: it is becoming less poor and more middle-class. The growth of emerging middle classes has profound implications for global development. Yet, although the emergence of middle classes across the globe and its potential effects are set high on the agendas of researchers and policy-makers, an often neglected fact is that middle-class characteristics vary greatly from one country to another. Upon closer look, there is not one new global middle class but a variety of very different burgeoning middle classes. This paper aims to highlight the differences in middle-class growth, size and consumption capacities in developing and emerging economies. To take account of this heterogeneousness, the paper presents a novel middle-class typology that includes nine different “types” of middle classes, ranging from small and affluent middle classes to large middle classes with low spending capacity. The typology allows for comparing different middle classes across countries and is a useful tool for more fine-grained research and policy analysis. Against that background, the paper points to fruitful avenues for future research with regards to interpreting the role of the rising middle classes in the context of economic growth, democracy and civic values as well as environmental challenges.
Deutsche + Europäische + multilaterale Entwicklungspolitik Umwelt, Ökosysteme und Ressourcen