India: a middle-class nation?

Yesterday, Mint carried an editorial on the issue of whether India is a middle-class nation. The matter has been a subject of recent discussion, thanks to two new papers on the subject, including our recent chapter (which you can find here).

Here’s what Mint says about the two studies:

Two very insightful academic studies on the Indian middle class were highlighted in a recent article by Soutik Biswas of the BBC. Economists Sandhya Krishnan and Neeraj Hatekar of the Mumbai School of Economics and Public Policy have concluded from their analysis of incomes that there are 600 million people in the Indian middle class. They have defined the middle class as anybody living on between $2-10 a day, in terms of 1993 purchasing power parity dollars. The two Mumbai economists have used an objective measure to gauge the extent of the middle class, and their estimates are at the higher end of a bunch of similar estimates that analysts have made over the years.

The other study is by political scientists Devesh Kapur, Neelanjan Sircar and Milan Vaishnav, and their estimates are based on subjective considerations. Respondents in a large sample survey conducted in 2014 were asked whether they considered themselves to be middle class. Almost half the respondents said they did. The answers to the later questions are especially revealing. A large proportion of those who identify themselves as middle-class citizens believe that their children will have better lives than they did, that the social status of their family has improved in a generation and that India is prospering.

Interestingly, the editorial writers at Mint conclude the piece by cautioning readers about irrational exuberance regarding the rise of the middle class. The entire piece is worth reading.

Advertisements

New column: Do you call yourself middle class?

Over at The Print, Devesh, Neelanjan, and I have a column drawn from our recent paper on the Indian middle class. This paper uses self-identification as a way of measuring who belongs to the middle. According to this definition, what matters is what you feel (not necessarily what education or income category you belong to).

The folks at The Print created some very cool infographics using our data, such as this:

2-1-696x392

You can read the entire column here — and the paper on which it is based here.

p.s. The kicker is that the headline identifies us as “three economists.” I suppose we should consider this a free upgrade.

 

BBC: Is India’s Middle Class Poor

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.

New paper: Being Middle Class in India

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:

1.1

You can read the full chapter here.

New column: “Doing business in India: myths and realities”

Matthew Lillehaugen and I have a new column, appearing in Mint and the Ideas for India blog, on the World Bank’s Doing Business indicators. The 2018 edition of the annual rankings comes out this week and India is expected to improve its traditionally lackluster performance.

In advance of the anticipated data release, we look at what the measures do and do not tell us. We do this by comparing the indicators to firm-level data from enterprise surveys. This chart summarizes what we find when we compare the Doing Business data (which capture de jure realities) with enterprise survey data (which capture de facto experience).

w_oped-kJvG--414x621@LiveMint-3

You can read the full piece here.

 

The Emerging Congress Strategy for 2019

I have a new column in The Print on the emerging Congress Party strategy for India’s 2019 general election. I describe the largely negative strategy as “high risk, high reward,” for it seeks to drag Modi and the BJP down rather than offer a coherent alternative for the future. I write:

The Congress’ strategy—best described as high-risk, high-reward—rests not on its projection of a coherent vision for the country or the projection of a dynamic national leader but rather a high-decibel rejection of the status quo.

The full piece can be found here.

New column: Dominance, doubt & the BJP

I have a new column in the Indian Express that draws on a recent visit to Delhi. In the piece, I make the case that dominance and doubt are joined together in an uncomfortable embrace in Delhi’s corridors of power. On the one hand, the BJP is utterly dominant, methodically expanding its footprint across India. On the other hand, a nagging sense of anxiety driven by the country’s patchy economic performance refuses to go away.

Here’s the key paragraph:

But this electoral dominance does not tell the full story. Beneath this aura of supremacy is a nagging feeling of vulnerability, nudged along by the amassing clouds on the economic horizon. The economic scenario, exemplified by anemic first quarter GDP growth figures, betrays the promises of sound economic stewardship the BJP had continually boasted on the campaign trail. While the macro picture has stabilized, there are concerns with the micro.

You can read the full piece here.