Courted by politicians and businesses alike, perhaps no sector of society is as difficult to pin down and define as the middle class. Latin America’s growing middle class is transforming the political, economic and social landscape of the hemisphere, generating unprecedented national growth, asserting political demands, creating new markets, and often struggling not to relapse into poverty. The latest issue of Americas Quarterly, released on Monday, November 12, defines what it means to be middle class in Latin America—celebrating the achievements and aspirations of Latin America’s middle class while examining the challenges that lie ahead for this fast-growing yet vulnerable sector.
The Fall 2012 AQ includes feature articles by scholars and experts such as Luis Felipe Lopez-Calva, who examines different ways of measuring the middle class, Jamele Rigolini, who discusses how middle-class growth in Latin America compares to growth in the booming nations of India and China, and María-Eugenia Boza, who analyzes three different case studies in which businesses adapted their methods to better market to the middle class in Latin America. Meanwhile, Scott Winship and Ron Haskins challenge the perception that the middle class is shrinking in the United States, and Elizabeth Zechmeister, Laura Sellers, and Mitchell A. Seligson use Vanderbilt University’s Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) data to examine whether the new middle class is more (or less) democratic in terms of its values and behavior. Providing an inside look at middle-class life in Latin America, journalists Lauren Villagran, Mitra Taj, Taylor Barnes, and Haley Cohen spend time speaking to families in Mexico, Peru, Brazil and Argentina about their struggles, sacrifices and hopes for the future.