Arnold Kling  

A Middle-Class World

Can 600 Economists Be Wrong Ab... Shifty Statistics...

The above graph is lifted from a forthcoming book by Surjit S. Bhalla, called Second Among Equals: The Middle Class Kingdoms of India and China. It shows the share of the middle class in world population rising from 2 percent in 1820 to 23 percent in 1950 to 54 percent in 2005 to a projected 79 percent in 2025. [typos corrected]

In another chart, looking at India alone, the middle class population is 2 percent in 1960 and 34 percent in 2005. China went from essentially 0 percent in 1980 to 67 percent in 2005.

Thanks to reader Prashant Kothari for forwarding the charts.

COMMENTS (5 to date)
Buzzcut writes:

I thought that the chart looked strangely linear, so I entered the numbers in Excel and plotted an XY chart rather than a bar chart.

It is highly non-linear. A power regression fits the data the best. (y=1E-108*x^32.57, R^2=.9809)

Interestingly enough, you can get an almost perfect fit if you only plot the years 1820, 1913, 1950, and 2005. (R^2=.9985, y=5E-114*x^34.25)

1980 is a huge outlier. That's the damage socialism caused, especially Maoism and Indian style socialism.

Vincent Clement writes:

I thought the middle class was shrinking ;)

Bruce G Charlton writes:


"...54 percent in 2005 to a projected 79 percent in 2005."
But a fascinating snippet - thanks.

Dear AK, please could you give some indication of the oprational definition of Middle Class used in this book?

Buzzcut writes:

Do a exponential regression on the data for 1820, 1913, and 1950. Extrapolate to 2025.

Had socialism never occured, 96.7% of the world's population would be middle class in 2025 vs. the 79% now projected (I get 76.5%).

66% of the pop would be middle class in 2005, instead of the 54% we now have.

Socialism/ Maoism did that much damage. And it isn't like 1950 was a good year or anything. It was only 5 years after WWII, after all. Imagine where the world would be if, say, WWI had never happened and the positive trends of the 19th century had continued.

George writes:

A couple of typos: "23 percent in 1850" should be changed to the much-less-shocking "1950"; and as pointed out above, "79 percent in 2005" should be "2025".

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