Latin American middle class jumps by 50 percent


A customer looks at clothes at a shop in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on October 24, 2012.



The number of people joining the middle class in Latin America and the Caribbean has grown by 50 percent over the past decade, a new report out Tuesday by the World Bank shows. 

There are now nearly as many middle-class families as there are those living in poverty, reports AP. That's a big achievement for an area of the world known for its wealth inequality. 

The middle class, which is defined as individuals making between $10 and $50 a day, now accounts for 30 percent of the population, roughly equal to the percentage of people living in poverty. 

"Most countries in the region are on their way to becoming middle-class societies; this represents a historic change," World Bank President Jim Yong Kim told Reuters.

A new "vulnerable" class of people now makes up the largest income group in the region. They fall just below middle class income, earning between $4 and $10 a day.  

The report cites a number of factors that have pushed millions of residents into the middle income bracket including higher education levels, smaller families and more women entering the workforce. 

But the report indicated that the transition between poverty and the middle class is still not smooth.

“Most class movement was gradual: most of the “climbers” moved either from poverty to vulnerability or from vulnerability to the middle class; few made the jump directly from poverty to the middle class during these 15 years. Rags- to-riches stories capture the imagination precisely because they are, in reality, rather rare—even in a high-mobility context such as Latin America in the 2000s.”

Barron's reports that Brazil represented about 40 percent of the middle class growth in the region. In the world's sixth biggest economy, 30 million people were lifted from poverty after the success of commodity-led growth and conditional cash transfers under left-leaning former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, reports Reuters. 

By 2030, the authors estimate 42 percent of the region will be middle class.