ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Devendra BajpaiSubscribe to Devendra Bajpai

Layers in Globalising Society and the New Middle Class in India

The means of personal transportation to which one has access constitute an important part of one's relationship with globalisation, limiting or enhancing the scope of activity and area of influence. We define economic classes in relation to different transportation assets, considering as the lower middle class those who have motorcycles or motor-scooters, and as the upper middle class, those who own automobiles. Unambiguously identifying a middle class is difficult; the term is relational, context-dependent, and inchoate. However, the lower- and upper-middle classes, defined in this manner, are robust to alternative definitions: these groups have substantially higher incomes than groups below, own disproportionately large shares of other physical assets, and do much better in terms of education, health, media exposure, and social capital. The middle class increased from 11% in 1992 to almost double this percentage in the early years of the new millennium. Subsequently, its growth has slowed down, coming almost to a halt in rural areas. Fragility and volatility are in evidence; many, formerly in the middle class, have fallen back. It cannot be blithely assumed that India's middle class will grow much larger.

Lineal Spread and Radial Dissipation: Experiencing Growth in Rural India, 1993-2005

The distribution of benefits from economic growth since the early 1990s has followed an identifiable spatial pattern. People in the largest cities have achieved the greatest gains, followed by people in small towns and villages close to towns. Further away, in villages located more than five kilometres from the nearest town - home to more than half of the entire population of India - inflation-adjusted per capita incomes fell between 1993 and 2005. The steepest declines were experienced by the lowest income groups. Rising inequality is a natural result of these spatially distributed trends. The debilitating effects of "distance from town" need to be countered by connecting outlying villages with more and better physical and social infrastructures.
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