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FEATURE STORY

Colombian Middle Class grows over past decade

November 13, 2012


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World Bank

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The middle class has grown 50% in Latin America from 2003 to 2009, according to a new World Bank report.
  • Colombia’s middle class is among those that have grown in the region in 15 years.
  • 54 percent of Colombians improved their economic status between 1992 and 2008.

Paola Barrero Castro is 35 years old and an industrial engineer. She is paid by the job, which means she doesn’t have a permanent contract. She says that these days it is harder to find a steady full-time job.

She went to public university, because it was nearer to what her parents could afford. In comparison with her parents, she says that it is possible that she earns now a little more than her parents did.

“But they had the chance to be linked to one business for a very long time, that is the difference with me,” she says.

By her income level, Paola is considered part of the Colombian middle class. According to a new World Bank study, the middle class in Latin America are people who make between US$10 and US$50 per day and per person.

A permanent job is what many middle class Latin Americans aspire to. A full-time contract with a company is also Paola’s dream, as she has been working independently for quite some time. But she has hope. “I am an optimistic person,” she says.

10 years of school 

From 2003 to 2009, the middle class - people who are not poor nor vulnerable but not yet rich – has grown 50% in Latin America, more than it has ever grown before, according to the new World Bank report “Economic Mobility and the Rise of the Latin American Middle Class”.


" It is possible that I earn now a little more than my parents did. But they had the chance to be linked to one business for a very long time, that is the difference with me.  "
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Paola Barrero Castro

Industrial engineer, Colombia

In Colombia, the middle class has grown in 15 years. In fact, 54 percent of Colombians improved their economic status between 1992 and 2008. Inequality, although still one of the highest in the world, has declined in a decade, according to international parameters (4 points on the Gini Index, the index used to measure income inequality).

According to the study’s findings, the Colombian middle class goes to school in average about 10 years.  That compares to about a little less than 6 years for the poor, 7 years for the vulnerable – those that the authors of the study consider as not poor any more (earning from US$4 to US$10 per day), but still at risk of falling back into poverty  - and almost 16 years for the upper class.

Mobility between generations in Colombia is relatively low, as it is in average in the region, according to the study.

An Escape from Poverty

Furthermore, poverty in Latin America declined from more than 40% to 30% in a decade, meaning that 50 million Latin Americans escaped poverty in that lapse of time. That means that the middle class and the poor now represent roughly the same share of Latin America’s population.

The study also concludes that at least 43% of Latin Americans changed social classes in more than a decade, and most of them switched to a higher class.


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