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The Rise of China's Global Middle Class in an International Context

Terry Sicular (), Xiuna Yang and Björn Gustafsson

China & World Economy, 2022, vol. 30, issue 1, 5-27

Abstract: We estimate the size of the global middle class in China and 33 other countries and analyze China's expanding middle class in an international context. The “global middle class” is defined in terms of being neither poor nor rich in the developed world. China's global middle class has grown rapidly and has been catching up with the middle class in developed countries. By 2018 China's global middle class constituted 25 percent of China's population; in absolute size it was nearly double the size of the global middle class in the US and was similar in size to that of Europe. Cross‐country analysis of the relationship between the middle‐class share of the total population and GDP per capita reveals an inverted‐U pattern. China is not an outlier from the cross‐country pattern but the speed with which its middle‐class has expanded is unusual. The only other countries with similarly large, rapid expansions of the middle class are transition economies.

Date: 2022
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