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

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Layers in Globalising Society and the New Middle Class in India

Trends, Distribution and Prospects

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.

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