Can the middle class boost the growth in the emergent countries?

One observes a tendency to the increase in the middle class whatever the criterion of membership adopted. However the criteria of membership of the middle class are far from achieving the unanimity in the economists and the importance of the middle class varies according to authors’. With a broad definition of the middle class - the lower threshold being close to the line of poverty -, the vulnerable group tends to lose of its importance and the heterogeneity of this group increases. On the contrary, the choice of a narrow definition of the middle class limit their character “catches all” and thus their heterogeneity. Some economists see in this rise of the middle class to spur economic growth of the emergent economies threatened by “ middle income trap”, drawn consequently by the growth from the sophisticated durable consumer goods. Others consider that the rise of the middle class comes from the growth and that a virtuous circle could exist between growth and middle class. Within the framework of a controlled globalization, these two theses are erroneous: a redistribution of the incomes in favour of the the most underprivileged sectors can increase the growth and, by doing this, decrease poverty.

Ce texte est dédié à la mémoire de Jacques Valier, mon complice. Il a été discuté lors d’un séminaire FMSH-UFRJ à Rio de Janeiro en novembre 2013 et lors d’une séance du séminaire BRICs à la Fondation Maison des sciences de l’homme, le 13 janvier 2014.

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