AQ’s Christopher Sabatini and the World Bank's Jamele Rigolini speak on the Takeaway


December 3, 2012


Americas Quarterly Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini and World Bank Senior Economist Jamele Rigolini spoke to The Takeaway's John Hockenberry to discuss the definition and growth of Latin America’s middle class.

During the interview on Monday, Sabatini and Rigolini discussed the recently-released issue of the Fall 2012 issue of Americas Quarterly, “Latin America’s Real Middle Class,” and the World Bank report on the Latin American middle class that was published in early November. Rigolini also contributed an article to the latest AQ, entitled “Latin America’s Middle Class in Global Perspective.”

Both Sabatini and Rigolini agreed that economic growth was a fundamental driver of Latin America’s middle-class expansion, which has swelled by 50 million people in the last 10 years to include roughly one-third of all people living in the Western Hemisphere. Improvements in social policy, including universal health care, insurance, and pension plans, have also been important drivers of middle-class growth.

“What really helped the middle class is economic growth, and economic growth will trickle down through higher labor incomes, through higher wages. That’s what really helps,” said Rigolini.

Though the growth of Latin America’s middle class is a reason for optimism, Sabatini pointed out that middle class political participation has not increased substantially, and that in some cases, the “new” middle class has proven to be less politically tolerant that other classes in the region. Meanwhile, middle class families are increasingly likely to take their children out of public schools. “They’re beginning to check out of the system, so how do you re-engage them?” Sabatini asked.

Sabatini said that Latin America’s center-left parties have benefitted from middle class growth over the last decade. Now, he says, “the parties that will benefit are the ones that provide practical solutions. We’re watching a much more practical electorate in Latin America that’s demanding a state that’s more efficient, that’s demanding economic policies that are more stable and predictable, and that’s also demanding social programs like education. ”

Listen to the full interview here.

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