Home Institution

University of Michigan

Publication Date

Spring 2022

Program Name

Switzerland: International Studies and Multilateral Diplomacy


The global middle class has been experiencing exponential growth, but because of differences among countries in regard to stages of development, the growth has not been spread evenly across the world. The United States and much of the Western World is undergoing a shrinking middle class due to economic deregulation and automation whereas China and other countries in the Eastern World have had middle class growth in recent years (OECD, 2019). The juxtaposition between the middle classes is also reflected in the juxtaposition of the respective countries’ GDP growth. Therefore, the United States and China, because of their pronounced systemic differences and blatant changes in their middle class, will be examined in this paper.

Because the two countries are at different stages of development, different levels of growth are expected, but the degree to which they are different exposes the limits of liberal economics forces that rely on non-market power and deregulation. This paper argues the United States is going to have to employ numerous tools, such as reskilling, social programs, and higher wages, in order to combat the shrinking middle class and its negative effects as well as offset the economic and political power that China has gained and will amass from a growing middle class.

The methods used to gather information for the purposes of this research paper are discussed in detail below, but they include analyzing statistics and data relating to the middle class, GDP, and inequality, interviewing experts on the topic, and synthesizing the information given in interviews with information found from scholarly journals published online. Six experts, most of whom are professors at universities, helped contribute to this research by answering a multitude of interview questions. The experts specialized in topics such as inequality, development, China and India, and economics, but all offered a unique perspective and helped advance the research.


Growth and Development | Income Distribution | International Economics | Labor Economics | Other International and Area Studies | Quantitative, Qualitative, Comparative, and Historical Methodologies


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