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Urban poor -- Brazil, Brazil -- Social conditions, Brazil -- Politics and government, Middle class -- Brazil -- Economic conditions, Social classes -- Brazil, Social mobility


The early years of the 21st century were historic for socioeconomic relations in Brazil. While long known for stark socioeconomic inequality, the nation became internationally celebrated for its economic growth and successful poverty-reduction initiatives, which together propelled some 35 million “previously poor” Brazilians into what became called a “new middle class.” The apparent rise of this “new” class has generated contentious debates and a range of social science studies in Brazil; yet this literature is little known in the Anglophone academic world. While some have interpreted this demographic transformation as an expansion of the existing middle class, others have questioned the utility of income- or consumption-based criteria for the category middle class. Drawing from ongoing research in working-class neighborhoods in three Brazilian cities (Recife, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo), this article reviews and engages these important debates, examines the extent to which Brazil’s class structure has changed, and presents a conceptual framework for understanding experiences of socioeconomic mobility and class subjectivities among Brazil’s “previously poor.”


This is the pre-peer reviewed version of the following article: Klein, C. H., Mitchell, S. T. and Junge, B. (2018), Naming Brazil's previously poor: “New middle class” as an economic, political, and experiential category. Economic Anthropology, 5: 83–95, which has been published in final form at: This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.



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