Is a growing middle class good for the poor?

Is a growing middle class good for the poor?

Social policy in a time of globalization




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Extreme poverty remains one of the most vexing problems of our time. In this intricate study, academics Raj Desai and Homi Kharas tackle the little-understood relationship between the rise of the middle class and the plight of the poor. In Europe, they report, the emergence of the middle class led to the creation of social safety nets for the poor. But in today’s developing world, such a development seems unlikely, Desai and Kharas indicate. getAbstract recommends this report to experts rather than laymen.


In the late 1800s, the emerging middle classes in Europe helped drive antipoverty programs. A “red-white” coalition developed between the poor and the white-collar professionals, and this alliance pushed for safety nets that benefited the poorest members of society in Europe throughout the late 19th and 20th centuries. That bit of history raises a question today: What role does the middle class play in alleviating poverty in Latin America, Africa and Asia? While economic elites in developing nations value low taxes and cheap labor, the working classes and the poor prefer a system with some protection...

About the Authors

Raj M. Desai is a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution and associate professor of international development at Georgetown University. Homi Kharas is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

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