The Globe's Emerging Middle Classes

  • February 12, 2009

As economically developing countries grow prosperous, their middle classes understandably become more satisfied with their lives. But many of their basic values also appear to change. Over time, the values of the middle classes in emerging countries become more like those of the publics of advanced nations. This is the overall conclusion of a new analysis by the Pew Research Center's Pew Global Attitudes Project, conducted in partnership with the Economist magazine.

The study finds that in 13 middle-income nations from regions around the globe, people tend to hold different opinions about democracy and social issues once they reach a certain level of wealth. Compared with poorer people in emerging countries, members of the middle class assign more importance to democratic institutions and individual liberties, consider religion less central to their lives, hold more liberal social values, and express more concern about the environment.

For decades, social scientists have argued that development leads to changes in public attitudes and societal values. This study suggests that on a variety of issues, the "global middle class" - people in emerging nations whose household income can be considered at least "middle income" by international standards - differs from poorer citizens.

Read the full report The Globe's Emerging Middle Classes on the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project Web site.