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Unpublished Paper
The Developing World's Bulging (But Vulnerable) Middle Class
Policy Research Working Paper 4816 World Bank (2009)
  • Martin Ravallion, World Bank
The “developing world’s middle class” is defined as those who live above the median poverty line of developing countries but are still poor by US standards; the “Western middle class” are those not poor by US standards. Although barely 80 million people in the developing world entered the Western middle class over 1990-2002, economic growth and global distributional shifts allowed an extra 1.2 billion people to join the developing world’s middle class. Four-fifths came from Asia, and half from China. Most remained fairly close to poverty, with incomes bunched up just above $2 a day. One in six people now live between $2 and $3 per day. The developing world has become more sharply divided between countries with a large middle class and those with a relatively small one, with Africa prominent in the latter group. Implications are drawn for growth and poverty reduction, the Millennium Development Goals and vulnerability to the global economic crisis.
  • Poverty,
  • middle class,
  • polarization,
  • economic growth
Publication Date
January, 2009
Citation Information
Martin Ravallion. "The Developing World's Bulging (But Vulnerable) Middle Class" Policy Research Working Paper 4816 World Bank (2009)
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