Il sito del Laboratorio di Politiche Sociali

The new working paper LPS (part of the Working Paper del DAStU series) has been published:

How to measure the middle class: approaches from economics

The article is written by Chiara Ricci and was produced as part of the Rising Inequality and the Social Insecurity of the Middle Class: Measures, Drivers, Policies (RISING) project, funded by MIUR on the PRIN 2017 call. The project sees the partecipation of the Department of Architecture and Urban Studies of Poltecnico (project coordinator) and of the University of Trento (Department of Sociology and Social Research), Milan (Department of Social and Political Sciences) and Rome “La Sapienza” (Department of Economics and Law) .

The middle class has always been considered important especially for democracy and economic growth but the concept of middle class is differently defined and measured by social researchers. Even though the sociological literature analyses the evolution of social classes taking into account multiple dimensions, most economic studies consider classes focusing solely on income stratification and, in general, categorise as the “middle class” the middle-income groups in absolute or relative terms. The consequences of this practice are that it is difficult to identify stable criteria to define and operationalise the theoretical concept of the “middle class”, and empirical results depend on the way that group is defined. Other approaches, drawn from the studies of polarization, respond to the need for less arbitrary analysis of the middle class. This paper aims to provide a literature review of the different approaches in economics to explore the dimension and the evolution of the middle class in heterogeneous contexts, examining the rationale for the various definitions and illustrating their implications in the empirical analysis and the public debate.

The full paper can be downloaded at the following link:

This workng paper is the first of a series of articles produced in the first phase of the PRIN RISINIG with the aim of taking stock of the main concepts addressed by the project (middle class and insecurity). This will be followed by working papers on the main definitions of middle class based on employment, on culturalist approaches to the study of the middle class and, finally, a review of the literature on the definition of economic insecurity.