Colombia’s middle class has grown from 15% of the population in 2002 to 28% in 2011, a study by Bogota’s Andes University showed.
The study “Social Mobility in Colombia” estimated that the middle class reached 30% of the population in 2012, which would mean the country’s middle class would have doubled over the past decade.
The study defined the middle class as the group of Colombians with a monthly income between $1,100 and $5,500.
Economist Alejandro Gaviria, leader of the study, warned that the new middle class is still fragile and could fall back into poverty because of its credit situation.
“The study shows that income has increased, as in, there is a real sustainability, but this has been amplified by an expansion of debt, mainly in consumption, which has grown to be more than 30% in the past years. This is worrisome. It has happened in Brazil [where] they recently put the brakes on the economy because there was an unsustainable increase in families’ debt,” Gaviria was quoted as saying by economic magazine Portfolio.
According to the study, Colombia is still significantly behind other developing Latin American economies like those of Chile and Mexico where the middle class consists of respectively 50% and 40% and poverty has dropped to respectively 7.1% and 17.4%, while in Colombia more than 35% of the people live below the poverty line.
According to 2010 World Bank figures, Colombia had the highest unemployment, poverty and inequality rates of its neighbors.