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The World’s Growing Middle Class (2020–2030)

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The World’s Growing Middle Class 2020–2030

The World’s Growing Middle Class (2020–2030)

The middle class is already the largest spending group in the world, driving increased consumption of goods and materials.

50 years ago, this group of global consumers lived almost exclusively in Western countries. Today, they are increasingly spread around the world, representing 45% of the global population.

In this graphic based on data from Brookings Institution, we highlight the global middle class’ impact on the global economy and how this population is expected to grow in the next decade.

Who is Considered Middle Class?

Though there are many different definitions of middle class, many define the group as those earning between $10 and $100 per person per day.

For the Brookings’ projection, the global middle class is divided by the lower middle class (earning $11–$50 per day in 2011 PPP) and the upper middle class (earning $51–$110 per day in 2011 PPP).

In general, middle class families also tend to own their own home through a mortgage, own a car, and have enough savings to afford to dine out and take vacations.

Consumer Group# of People (2020)# of People (2030P)
Upper Middle Class0.6 billion1.0 billion
Lower Middle Class2.9 billion3.8 billion
Rest of World4.2 billion3.6 billion
Total7.7 billion8.4 billion

Since 2003, when the number of poor and vulnerable people in the world reached a historic peak of 4.4 billion people, the middle class has been growing fast, especially in Asia.

By 2030, another 700 million people are expected to join the global middle class, making it more than half of the world’s total population.

Middle Class Spending

Over the last few decades, the middle class has grown into one of the primary forces sustaining the global economy.

In 2020, the global middle class spent $44 trillion, or 68% of the world’s consumer spending. By 2030, middle class households are expected to spend even more, an estimated $62 trillion or 50% more than in 2020.

Per capita, the upper middle class and wealthy elite will lead in consumption, but the largest overall spenders will be the 3.8 billion people in the lower middle class:

Consumer GroupTotal Spending (2020)Total Spending (2030P)
Upper Middle Class$18T$27T
Lower Middle Class$26T$35T
Upper Class + Poor/Vulnerable$20T$29T
Total$64T$91T

Though many will move up into the lower middle class, the amount of people in the poor and vulnerable segment will remain large. However, it will only account for $5 trillion, or about 6%, of total spending globally.

A Richer World

History has shown that as science and technology advance, the world becomes richer.

Although inequality between countries persists and takes a long time to overcome, middle-income countries increasingly catch up to high-income countries and create this swelling population of middle class households.

With more than half of the world’s population projected to be in the middle class by 2030, what will material consumption in the next decade look like?

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Urbanization

Visualizing U.S. Consumption of Fuel and Materials per Capita

Wealthy countries consume large amounts of natural resources per capita, and the U.S. is no exception. See how much is used per person.

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Visualizing U.S. Consumption of Fuel and Materials per Capita

Wealthy countries consume massive amounts of natural resources per capita, and Americans are no exception.

According to data from the National Mining Association, each American needs more than 39,000 pounds (17,700 kg) of minerals and fossil fuels annually to maintain their standard of living.

Materials We Need to Build

Every building around us and every sidewalk we walk on is made of sand, steel, and cement.

As a result, these materials lead consumption per capita in the United States. On average, each person in America drives the demand of over 10,000 lbs of stone and around 7,000 lbs of sand and gravel per year.

Material/Fossil FuelPounds Per Person
Stone10,643
Natural Gas9,456
Sand, Gravel7,088
Petroleum Products 6,527
Coal 3,290
Cement724
Other Nonmetals569
Salt359
Iron Ore239
Phosphate Rock 166
Sulfur66
Potash49
Soda Ash36
Bauxite (Aluminum)24
Other Metals 21
Copper13
Lead11
Zinc6
Manganese4
Total 39,291

The construction industry is a major contributor to the U.S. economy.

Crushed stone, sand, gravel, and other construction aggregates represent half of the industrial minerals produced in the country, resulting in $29 billion in revenue per year.

Also on the list are crucial hard metals such as copper, aluminum, iron ore, and of course many rarer metals used in smaller quantities each year. These rarer metals can make a big economic difference even when their uses are more concentrated and isolated—for example, palladium (primarily used in catalytic converters) costs $54 million per tonne.

Fuels Powering our Lives

Despite ongoing efforts to fight climate change and reduce carbon emissions, each person in the U.S. uses over 19,000 lbs of fossil fuels per year.

U.S. primary energy consumption by energy source, 2021

Gasoline is the most consumed petroleum product in the United States.

In 2021, finished motor gasoline consumption averaged about 369 million gallons per day, equal to about 44% of total U.S. petroleum use. Distillate fuel oil (20%), hydrocarbon gas liquids (17%), and jet fuel (7%) were the next most important uses.

Reliance on Other Countries

Over the past three decades, the United States has become reliant on foreign sources to meet domestic demand for minerals and fossil fuels. Today, the country is 100% import-reliant for 17 mineral commodities and at least 50% for 30 others.

In order to reduce the dependency on other countries, namely China, the Biden administration has been working to diversify supply chains in critical minerals. This includes strengthening alliances with other countries such as Australia, India, and Japan.

However, questions still remain about how soon these policies can make an impact, and the degree to which they can ultimately help localize and diversify supply chains.

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Electrification

Visualizing the World’s Largest Copper Producers

Many new technologies critical to the energy transition rely on copper. Here are the world’s largest copper producers.

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Visualizing the World’s Largest Copper Producers

Man has relied on copper since prehistoric times. It is a major industrial metal with many applications due to its high ductility, malleability, and electrical conductivity.

Many new technologies critical to fighting climate change, like solar panels and wind turbines, rely on the red metal.

But where does the copper we use come from? Using the U.S. Geological Survey’s data, the above infographic lists the world’s largest copper producing countries in 2021.

The Countries Producing the World’s Copper

Many everyday products depend on minerals, including mobile phones, laptops, homes, and automobiles. Incredibly, every American requires 12 pounds of copper each year to maintain their standard of living.

North, South, and Central America dominate copper production, as these regions collectively host 15 of the 20 largest copper mines.

Chile is the top copper producer in the world, with 27% of global copper production. In addition, the country is home to the two largest mines in the world, Escondida and Collahuasi.

Chile is followed by another South American country, Peru, responsible for 10% of global production.

RankCountry2021E Copper Production (Million tonnes)Share
#1🇨🇱 Chile5.627%
#2🇵🇪 Peru2.210%
#3🇨🇳 China1.88%
#4🇨🇩 DRC 1.88%
#5🇺🇸 United States1.26%
#6🇦🇺 Australia0.94%
#7🇷🇺 Russia0.84%
#8🇿🇲 Zambia0.84%
#9🇮🇩 Indonesia0.84%
#10🇲🇽 Mexico0.73%
#11🇨🇦 Canada0.63%
#12🇰🇿 Kazakhstan0.52%
#13🇵🇱 Poland0.42%
🌍 Other countries2.813%
🌐 World total21.0100%

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and China share third place, with 8% of global production each. Along with being a top producer, China also consumes 54% of the world’s refined copper.

Copper’s Role in the Green Economy

Technologies critical to the energy transition, such as EVs, batteries, solar panels, and wind turbines require much more copper than conventional fossil fuel based counterparts.

For example, copper usage in EVs is up to four times more than in conventional cars. According to the Copper Alliance, renewable energy systems can require up to 12x more copper compared to traditional energy systems.

Technology2020 Installed Capacity (megawatts)Copper Content (2020, tonnes)2050p Installed Capacity (megawatts)Copper Content (2050p, tonnes)
Solar PV126,735 MW633,675372,000 MW1,860,000
Onshore Wind105,015 MW451,565202,000 MW868,600
Offshore Wind6,013 MW57,72545,000 MW432,000

With these technologies’ rapid and large-scale deployment, copper demand from the energy transition is expected to increase by nearly 600% by 2030.

As the transition to renewable energy and electrification speeds up, so will the pressure for more copper mines to come online.

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