International Business Review

Special Issue on

The Middle Class in Emerging Markets: Interdisciplinary Perspectives


Edited by

S. Tamer Cavusgil, Georgia State University and

Peter J. Buckley, Leeds University Business School



The rise of the middle class (MC) in rapidly transforming economies of East Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East is one of the most remarkable megatrends of recent decades. Given the magnitude of the changes felt by vast numbers of households across the globe, as well as the importance the issue holds in the realms of society, politics, business, economics and culture, examining the middle classes in emerging markets (EMs) has become a topic of investigation, and in multiple areas of academic inquiry.


While a consensus definition does not exist, the middle class generally refers to a growing number of households in EMs who now have access to a substantial disposable income that they can direct towards discretionary purchases e.g. cars, home appliance, better housing, private education for children, leisure, and so forth.  One practical benchmark for delineating this group is having at least 30 percent of total household income available for discretionary consumption.


Yet, the rise of the middle class households in EMs is a multifaceted phenomenon signifying changes beyond discretionary consumption. Other factors by which middle class status can be defined include educational and professional achievement, political attitudes and participation, lifestyles, cultural values, or simply self-identification. The evolution of middle class is also correlated with rapid urbanization -- along with its consequences (e.g., housing and real estate pressures, unequal access to infrastructure between Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities, etc.). Finally, the rise of middle class in EMs heralds profound changes in societal values. Examples are: savings vs spending proclivity, attitudes toward borrowing, work-life balance, definition of success, religious practices, and individualism orientation.


Thus, business and economics scholars are not alone in studying the MC phenomenon. Scholars from such disciplines as media, communication, sociology, anthropology, political science, education, history, urban studies, and geography are also actively examining this topic. A special interest of some scholars is to contrast the contemporary developments in EMs with those already experienced by mature, post-industrial economies. Some also approach the middle class as a social phenomenon that derives meaning from social and cultural practices, while others treat it as political power with the capacity to shape a country's social, political, economic and cultural landscape.


The rise of the middle class has many important implications for international business and the processes of globalization.  These arise not only because of the consumption requirements of the middle class, but also in issues such as gender equality, income equality and the environmental implications of the new patterns of consumption. There are also important fiscal consequences in terms of taxation and its role in funding the "developmental state" and macroeconomic effects arising from debt.  The relationship between the rise of middle class consumption and the "middle income trap" remain to be fully examined.  All these issues represent new opportunities for international business researchers.


We contend that the middle class phenomenon is one of the most profound aspects of contemporary growth markets, whether it is Brazil, China, Indonesia, Poland, South Africa, or Turkey. While business and economics scholars have begun to pay special attention to this topic, and are now producing empirical findings, we can benefit from the observations and conceptualizations of fellow researchers in related disciplines as well. Clearly, a multi-disciplinary, holistic understanding the middle class phenomenon, is needed.


In addition, we need to examine country variations, recognizing that each EM has exhibited a different trajectory in forming its middle class. Middle class households in different EMs may face different issues and embody a wide range of paradoxes regarding hope and anxiety, optimism and discontent, stability and change, and so forth. Therefore, a comparative perspective can lead to some common understanding of this remarkable megatrend of our times.


Specific Objectives of the Special Issue

In addition to business scholars, we encourage researchers from economics, and other social science disciplines to submit their relevant works. We pursue the following objectives in developing the special issue:


1.     Offer a platform for scholars from international business and other disciplines to articulate their conceptualizations of the middle class phenomenon; thus working towards a more holistic understanding of middle class;

2.     Elicit and disseminate conceptual frameworks and empirical works that examine: i) antecedents; ii) consequences; and iii) moderators of the middle class phenomenon;

3.     Encourage and disseminate alternative metrics and methodologies for quantifying middle class households in EMs;

4.     Call attention to the varying trajectories of countries that are building their middle classes, thus offering comparative perspectives;

5.     Publish empirical evidence on such presumed consequences of the rise of middle class as: entrepreneurial activity; income equality; political activism; transparency and  democratic tendencies; and innovation; and

6.     Elicit studies that examine the relationship between the middle class phenomenon and such correlates as urbanization, modernization, sociological transformation;



Timeline for the Special Issue


Deadline for full paper submissions: 15 September 2014

Acceptance deadline for revised papers: 15 March 2015

Expected publication date of special issue: May 2015


To submit your papers, please access the journal's submission system by using the web link:  


Each paper will be sent to two to three reviewers, with relevant qualifications.



Guest Editors

Tamer Cavusgil ([log in to unmask] ) currently serves as Fuller E. Callaway Professorial Chair and Executive Director, CIBER, at the J. Mack Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.


Peter J Buckley, [log in to unmask] , (BA (Econ), York; MA, East Anglia; PhD Economics, Lancaster; Dr hc (Uppsala)) is Professor of International Business and Director of the Centre for International Business, University of Leeds, (CIBUL), UK.  ​

S. Tamer Cavusgil
Fuller E. Callaway Professorial Chair and Executive Director, CIBER
J. Mack Robinson College of Business
Georgia State University

+1 404.413.7284
AIB-L is brought to you by the Academy of International Business.
For information:
To post message: [log in to unmask]
For assistance: [log in to unmask]
AIB-L is a moderated list.