The BBC’s Soutik Biswas has a nice piece on the enigma that is the Indian middle class. Everybody acknowledges the enormous economic, political, and social potential the middle class holds in India, but almost no one agrees on who is actually middle class.
Soutik reports on some new research that tries to answer this question, including my new paper with Devesh Kapur and Neelanjan Sircar, which you can find here.
Read Soutik’s full dispatch here.
Devesh Kapur, Neelanjan Sircar, and I have a chapter in a forthcoming edited volume on the middle class in Brazil and India. Our chapter uses data from 2013 to study the Indian middle class. There is a huge definitional debate–in India and around the world–about what constitutes the middle class. It occurred to us that one powerful definition is what individuals themselves think about their class status. Using this concept of self-identification, we find that nearly one out of two Indians believes he or she is in the “middle class.” Furthermore, it turns out that self-identifying as “middle class” is linked to a very distinct outlook about the world. Here’s a snapshot of the variation across Indian states:
You can read the full chapter here.