ABSTRACT

There is one unifying theme that runs through this chapter: the rise of the middle class as an important economic, political, and social player in both places – where the diaspora groups live and where they came from. The long bifurcated socio-politico-economic populations now view the middle class as a middle ground. This class is asserting itself in a number of different ways. Of equal importance – but a largely overlooked fact – is that while the middle class in several Western societies – in particular in the United States – is shrinking and losing economic ground to the rich in terms of their share in national income, the South Asian middle class have improved their situation. Their circumstances have improved in terms of their position in the host populations as well as within the diaspora community itself. From this perspective, the diaspora groups can play an even greater role in their original homeland. They will also exert considerable influence on the global market place. In its Global Trend 2030 Report, the fifth in the series, the United States’ National Council regards the growth of the global middle class as a tectonic shift between now and 2030, and mentions that middle classes everywhere in the developing world are poised to expand substantially in terms of both absolute numbers and the percentage of the population that can claim middle-class status during the next 15-20 years (United States National Intelligence Council 2012: v). The middle class has increased in size in all South Asian countries. There is no consensus among scholars about how many people fall into this economic and social category. The scholars and the institutions that have researched in this area have used a number of different methodologies to define this group. Lopez-Calva et al. (2012) provide a comprehensive review of the recent literature on the middle class in Asia. India’s National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) has been at the forefront of shaping this debate.