NEW YORK – The middle class in Latin America and the Caribbean region grew by 50 percent over the past decade, according to a World Bank report released Tuesday. Higher levels of education, smaller families and more women and urban dwellers entering the work force were among factors contributing to the increase.
The middle class in the region historically plagued by wealth inequality grew to 152 million people in 2009, up from 103 million in 2003, according to the report. The middle class now accounts for roughly 30 percent of the population, roughly the same proportion of the population that lives below the poverty line.
"The recent experience of Latin America and the Caribbean shows the world that policies balancing economic growth while still expanding opportunities for the most vulnerable can spread prosperity to millions of people," World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said in a statement. "Governments in Latin America and the Caribbean still need to do much more - one third of the population is still in poverty - but we should celebrate this achievement of growing the middle class and learn from it."
Brazil accounted for about 40 percent of the region's middle class growth while Mexico saw 17 percent of its population joined the middle class between 2000 and 2010. Fifty-four percent of Colombians improved their economic status between 1992 and 2008, according to the report.
The report, however, found that social mobility remains limited in the region and the economic and social background of parents still played a role in determining the economic future of their children.
The report defined middle class as anyone making between US$10 and $50 per day.