• poverty;
  • middle;
  • income;
  • countries;
  • class;
  • vulnerability


Middle-Income Countries (MICs) are now home to most of the world's extreme poor—up to a billion people. At the same time, many MICs are also home to a drastically expanding group of people with expenditures of between $2 and $10 per capita/day. Globally, this ‘emerging middle’ or ‘non-polar’ or ‘in-between’ group, which accounts for 2.5 billion people worldwide, may be above the average poverty line for developing countries but in all likelihood is still at risk of experiencing poverty. This article outlines indicative data on trends relating to poverty and the non-poor by different expenditure groups and critically reviews the recent literature that contentiously labels such groups as ‘middle class’. The article argues that such groups are neither extreme poor nor in all likelihood secure from poverty and that such groups are worthy of closer examination because their expansion may potentially have wider societal implications, for example, related to taxation, governance and, ultimately, domestic politics. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.