Jeffrey Chwieroth, Andrew Walter, 15 November 2019

When there's a financial crisis, policymakers and politicians increasingly kowtow to the demands of an influential group: the global middle class. Jeffrey Chwieroth and Andrew Walter tell Tim Phillips how their Great Expectations are destabilising the world economy.

Joan Costa-i-Font, Alberto Batinti, 13 October 2019

A sizeable middle class is essential to protect societies against socioeconomic and political instability. This column examines the effect of economic recessions on the size of the middle class using different income-based and self-perception definitions. It finds that anticipated recessions do not produce an overall middle-class squeeze, but unanticipated shocks such as the Great Recession do. It also finds that recessions increase the share of the population that regards itself as middle class.

Jeffrey Chwieroth, Andrew Walter, 03 June 2019

The accumulation of mass financialised wealth has transformed the politics of banking crises. This column shows that the rising wealth of the middle classes has generated great expectations that their wealth will be protected by the government. As a result, democracies perform more financial sector bailouts and are also more financially fragile and politically unstable. 

Neil Cummins, 24 February 2019

Within countries, the driving force behind the 20th century’s dramatic drop in inequality were the declines in the wealth shares of the top 1%. Based on 60 million death and probate records covering a period of 100 years, this column argues that in the case of Britain the distributional gains from the Great Equalisation were exclusively confined to the top 30% of the wealth distribution. This left the nation’s social and political fabric vulnerable to the protest vote of many in 2016 to leave the EU, following the austerity induced by the financial crisis.

Moritz Kuhn, Moritz Schularick, Ulrike Steins, 09 August 2018

Recent work examining the evolution of the wealth distribution has tended to not paid much attention to the role of asset prices. This column uses a new US dataset to explore the role that asset price movements have in the US wealth distribution. Asset prices matter because portfolio composition differs systematically along the wealth distribution. The data further show that no progress has been made in reducing wealth inequalities between white and black households over the past 70 years. 

Anna Stansbury, Lawrence H. Summers, 20 February 2018

Since 1973, there has been divergence between labour productivity and the typical worker’s pay in the US as productivity has continued to grow strongly and growth in average compensation has slowed substantially. This column explores the causes and implications of this trend. Productivity growth appears to have continued to push workers’ wages up, with other factors to blame for the divergence. The evidence casts doubt on the idea that rapid technological progress is the primary driver here, suggesting rather that institutional and structural factors are to blame.

Maleke Fourati, Gabriele Gratton, Pauline Grosjean, 14 July 2016

It is typically argued that the rising popularity of Islamist parties in parts of the Arab world reflects votes from the poor and disenfranchised. This column challenges this perspective, arguing that Islamist parties gain political support from the middle classes, due in large part to neoliberal economic policies. Using survey and electoral data from Tunisia, it shows that belonging to the middle class and living in a rich district together affect the decision to vote for the religious party more than actually being religious. These findings suggest that the same framework used to analyse political competition in the West can be fruitfully applied to the Muslim world. 

James Harrigan, Ariell Reshef, Farid Toubal, 06 July 2016

Job polarisation has been documented in many large developed economies over the past two decades. This column shows how the growth of ICT has contributed to these trends. Using French firm-level data, it documents the declining share of middle-wage jobs, and identifies an increase in the share of technology-related jobs as an important contributing factor. Firms with more ‘techies’ are also found to grow faster than less techie-intensive firms.

Jason Furman, 20 February 2015

The US economy has strengthened considerably in recent years, presenting an opportunity to address the 40-year stagnation in incomes for the middle class. This column provides historical and international context for the key factors affecting middle-class incomes: productivity growth, labour force participation, and income inequality. It also outlines President Obama’s approach to economic policies – what he terms “middle-class economics” – which is designed to improve all three.

Michael Boehm, 08 February 2014

Employment in traditional middle-class jobs has fallen sharply over the last few decades. At the same time, middle-class wages have been stagnant. This column reviews recent research on job polarisation and presents a new study that explicitly links job polarisation with the changes in workers' wages. Job polarisation has a substantial negative effect on middle-skill workers.

Shimelse Ali, Uri Dadush, 02 June 2012

According to the broadest measure, anyone who is not poor is part of the middle class – that could mean that anyone living on more than $2 a day. This column suggests a more sensible measure: anyone who owns a car. Based on this measure, the global middle class looks quite different.

Events

CEPR Policy Research