Look East instead of West for the future global middle class

By Kristofer Hamel, Chief Operating Officer, and Baldwin Tong, Research Analyst, World Data Lab

India-middle-class-shopping
South City Mall in Kolkata, India

Poverty is declining worldwide. Yet, reducing poverty is not equivalent to a rising middle class. A large share of the world’s population earns between USD 2 and USD 11 a day (in 2011 purchasing power parity). Only once people start earning more than USD 11 do they tend to have enough extra spending power to make purchases that go beyond basic needs and therefore enter the global middle class. First-time middle-class purchases include personal transportation (motorcycles), housing (first-time renting or low-end purchases), finance (first savings account or loan) and education (tertiary).

Over the next decade, middle-class spending power will shift from west to east due to the huge growth in the middle-class segments (USD 11-USD 110 per day) of India and China. The middle classes of these two countries will represent over 83% of their respective country’s spending power, meaning that businesses should consider their tastes and preferences. Combined, the world’s two most populous countries are expected to represent over 43.3% of the global middle class by 2030.
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Who will drive consumer spending in the next decade?

By Kristofer Hamel, Chief Operating Officer, World Data Lab, and Homi Kharas, Interim Vice President, Brookings; Senior Economic Advisor World Data Lab1 

shoppingIn October 2018, the international community crossed a historic threshold: the majority of humanity no longer lives in or near poverty. Now and continuing into the foreseeable future, most people on Earth are middle class or rich. This tipping point is of interest to both the research community as well as global and regional companies searching for new markets.

But who exactly are these new middle-class consumers, and how will their profile change over the next decade?

Answering this question begins with an understanding of household classifications. Our projections (all per person spending according to 2011 purchasing power parity) designate households as those in extreme poverty (households spending below USD 1.90 per day), those in the lower middle class (households spending USD 11-50 per day) and those in the upper middle class (households spending USD 50-110 per day). Two other groups –households “vulnerable” to falling back into poverty as well as the “rich” who sit at the top end of the distribution – round out our classifications.
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