Photo: The Alves family from the TV program “Rebelde” on the Record TV network
A pair of articles caught my attention this week as they highlighted the ascension of Brazil’s new middle class and the reaction of the upper and upper-middle class to this influx of new consumers. As has been highlighted in various studies, Brazil’s elites and those belonging to the higher class structures have long been primarily white while the lower, popular classes have always been primarily black or persons of color. With the emergence of 35 million new Brazilians into the middle class in the past 10 years and 80% of them being Afro-Brazilian, the primarily white favored classes are none too pleased having to see and share spaces with people who, just a decade ago, didn’t have access to good and services that signaled middle class status. While some of this may have to do with perceived behavior and how people are dressed, class and race are intricately connected in Brazil. So what type of people are the upper and upper-middle class Brazilians really bothered by?
Blacks account for nearly 80% of Brazil’s new middle class, study shows
by Wilson Dias
Approximately 80% of new members of the Brazilian middle class are black. Over the past decade, the middle class grew by 38% and now represents 53% of the population, which means 104 million Brazilians. The data of the study Vozes da Classe Média (Voices of Middle Class) released on Thursday by the Strategic Affairs Secretariat (SAE) of the Presidency.
A total of 104 million Brazilians belong to the middle class, according to the government.
“One characteristic of the middle class is that the groups that entered the middle class were those who were less well represented. Now it [the middle class] is much more heterogeneous than it was ten years ago. Maids that were a smaller fraction increased their participation as did blacks. Almost 80% of the increase of the middle class refers to the black population”, said Secretary of Strategic Affairs of SAE, Ricardo Paes de Barros.
The SAE Study shows that over the last ten years, 35 million Brazilians entered the middle class bringing the total to 104 million people in Brazil, which is more than half of the Brazilian population. With this increase, the representation of blacks and whites in the middle class was balanced. A total of 53% of the middle class is made up of blacks and 47% for whites. The study notes that this balance, however, does not mean that racial inequalities were overcome, once you figure in the other classes. In the upper class, 69% are white and 31% black and in the lower class, blacks make up 69% and whites 31%.
“The growth of the Brazilian middle class was the result of an increase in inequality reduction. If we had the same growth without reducing inequality, the middle class would have grown by only 5 percentage points. Accordingly, two thirds [66%] of the advancement of the middle class [in the last ten years] is due to the reduction of inequalities”, said de Barros.
The secretary said that the so-called “upper class” increased in recent years but not at the same rate of the middle class. “We brought more people from the lower class to the middle class than the increase in the upper class. The middle class continues to grow. Part of it was promoted to the upper class, and this process will continue over the next decade.”
Data indicate that the ascension of the new middle class bothers upper and upper-middle class consumers
by Pedro Carvalho
In the elite, almost half think that quality of service has deteriorated with public access
Data shows that upper and upper-middle class consumers are uncomfortable with the consequences of the economic rise of millions of Brazilians into the middle class that now buy products and services to which, in the past, only the elites had access to. This is what data from a survey by Data Popular made during the first quarter points out, according to 15 thousand people of the more favored classes throughout Brazil.
According to the survey, 55.3% of the top of the pyramid consumers think that products should have versions for rich and poor, 48.4% stated that the quality of service has deteriorated with more access of the population, 49.7% prefer environments frequented by people of the same social level, 16.5% believe that badly dressed people should be barred in some places and 26% say that a subway would bring “unwanted people” to the region where one lives.
“For years, the elite bought and lived alone in their ‘small world,” says Renato Meirelles, director of the Popular Date. “In recent years, the middle class has ‘invaded’ malls, airports and other places where (previously) they had no access. As it is a new thing, the upper and upper-middle class is still learning to live with it. Part of the elite is indeed bothered by this”, said Meirelles.
To experts, upper and upper-middle class consumers risk making badly directed criticism at the so-called emerging class. “There are sectors, such as air travel, which expanded the quantity of customers and lost in quality, leaving the service actually worse,” says Rafael Lima Costa, professor of economics at FEA-USP (Faculty of Economy, Administration and Accounting at the University of São Paulo) and coordinator of the Consumer Price Index, the FIPE. “The complaint must be made to businesses and the infrastructure of airports, not to new customers,” says Lima.
Crowded airports: fault of the companies and the infrastructure not the new consumers
For the professor, despite overcrowded airports, consumers generally benefit from both strata of the rise of class C. “Companies like Apple and came automakers produce and sell in Brazil, because now there is scale of consumption, which brought more product options for everyone,” says Lima. “Moreover, the entry of millions in consumer class was the engine of growth Brazilian stability in recent years,” he says.
For a breakdown of what constitutes Brazil’s economic class structure, please see here