By 2030, the global middle class is widely projected to at least double in size to as many as 5 billion – a surge unseen since the Industrial Revolution.The affluence of the new middle class in India is changing lifestyles; here an after-work dance class fills a gym in Delhi with middle class workers. Monique Jaques/Special to The Christian Science Monitor
Dr. Swaruyma Yadav and his friend Nirupma (r.) and Dr. Sumit Shukla (l.) have lunch at Haldiram's, an Indian fast food chain. “Historically, sociologists have defined ‘middle class’ as those with salaries…. I think ‘middle class’ is very much a state of mind” says Sonalde Desai, a sociologist with the National Council of Applied Economic Research in Delhi (NCAER). Monique Jaques / Special to The Christian Science Monitor
Ash Narian Roy (l)., with his wife Dina and 20-year-old daughter Martina (r.), grew up in a rural hut, but earned a PhD and now heads a think tank in Delhi. Monique Jaques/Special to The Christian Science Monitor
Martina is given the freedom to drive. Even as Indians become wealthier, they are unlikely to gain full autonomy to decide careers, marriages, and major purchases. That’s particularly true in the case of women, despite their becoming more educated. Monique Jaques/Special to The Christian Science Monitor
Aditya Kumar has a good job as a youth development officer in Agra, a four-hour bus ride from his village. With his mother's pension, Mr. Kumar’s family has purchased three taxis. He wants to scale up this side business and quit his job. But such decisions in India aren’t left to one person. “I do not have the ability to choose the business I want to because [my mother] won’t approve,” says Kumar, who is 38. Ben Arnoldy/The Christian Science Monitor
Chinese girls pose in front of the Beijing Gucci store. Some analyses of International Monetary Fund data suggest that the size of the Chinese economy could eclipse that of the United States in just five years. Yang Yue/Xinhua/Newscom/File
Members of the newly minted Chinese middle class checked specs of apartment models at a real estate fair in Beijing last month. Li Ying/Xinhua/Zuma Press/Newscom
Liu Likang and his wife, Xu Yao rent a Spartan apartment, but they own a new car, travel, and have a savings account. Peter Ford/The Christian Science Monitor
A Brazilian takes an upscale coffee break in the Ipanema neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. From 2003 to 2008, 24 million people left poverty in Brazil, where the middle class now accounts for more than half of its roughly 191 million citizens. At home, they enjoy color
TVs, refrigerators, washing machines, and vacuum cleaners. Newscom/File
Meire, a Brazilian pedicurist (whose real name has not been used for security reasons), has lifted herself out of a Rio de Janeiro slum and bought a house. She qualified for the mortgage using "social capital"– that is, with help from her friends. Chantal James/Special to The Christian Science Monitor
Meire at her parents home in the favela Jacarezinho. Chantal James/Special to The Christian Science Monitor
President Obama and Mitt Romney have different definitions on what it means to be middle class. What does the term really mean?
Hope Yen, Associated Press /
July 18, 2012
In a recent speech, President Barack Obama referred to the "middle class" 14 times, defining it as a family that makes up to $250,000 a year. Republican challenger Mitt Romney has looked at it from the other direction, saying that someone who falls into poverty "is still middle class."