Project Details


Recent economic research has uncovered major changes in patterns of social mobility throughout the world. In the United States and Western Europe, middle classes that consolidated during the 20th. century are now observed to be in decline. Conversely, in countries such as Brazil, India, and China, where middle classes did not previously comprise a significant segment of the population, middle classes have increased significantly. These changes are of obvious economic importance. However, their wider social and political significance has been the subject of little rigorous research. This comparative anthropological project will address this gap. Anthropologists Dr. Marvin Benjamin Junge (State University of New York, New Paltz), Dr. Sean Mitchell (Rutgers University), and Dr. Charles Klein (Portland State University) will collect wide-ranging comparative and longitudinal data to illuminate the significance and consequences of the new middle class's historic rise. Not only will the results from this study be important for social scientific theory, they also will have important policy implications, contributing to our understanding of the relationships between economic growth, poverty reduction, and the consolidation of democracy. The research will be carried out in Brazil, which is one of the key global sites where these transformations have been occuring. Over the past fifteen years, approximately 40 million Brazilians have exited official poverty classifications. The investigators will undertake a three-year study in three cities (Fortaleza, Rio de Janeiro, and S¿o Paulo) to understand the meanings, material transformations, and identities associated with social, economic, and geographic mobility among Brazil's 'previously poor.' In each project city, the researchers will focus intensive data collection on people living in one home community. These case studies will combine:(1) participant observation in important spaces where new middle class individuals experience and express economic mobility (e.g., their neighborhoods, shopping malls, churches, bus and subway stations, community centers, recreational venues, health clinics, and public squares); (2) a baseline head of household survey (660 subjects); and (3) in-depth, annual interviews (130 subjects per year). These data will support the identification of potential subgroups within the new middle class and enable the researchers to assess longitudinally how individuals respond and communities to economic and political change at national and global levels.
Effective start/end date7/15/156/30/18


  • National Science Foundation (National Science Foundation (NSF))


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