Carbon consumption patterns of emerging middle classes

Carbon consumption patterns of emerging middle classes

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Never, Babette / Jose Ramon Albert / Hanna Fuhrmann / Sebastian Gsell / Miguel Jaramillo / Sascha Kuhn / Bernardin Senadza
Discussion Paper 13/2020

Bonn: German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)

ISBN: 978-3-96021-124-2
DOI: 10.23661/dp13.2020
Price: 6 €

As households move out of poverty, spending patterns change. This is good news from a development perspective, but changing consumer behaviour may imply substantially more carbon emissions. The lifestyle choices of the emerging middle classes are key, now and in the future. This paper explores the consumption patterns of the emerging middle classes and their carbon intensity, using unique micro data from household surveys conducted in Ghana, Peru and the Philippines. We find that carbon-intensive consumption increases with wealth in all three countries, and most sharply from the fourth to the fifth middle-class quintile due to changes in travel behaviour, asset ownership and use. In Peru, this shift in the upper-middle-class quintiles translates to annual incomes of roughly USD 11,000-17,000 purchasing power parity. Environmental knowledge and concern are fairly evenly spread at mid- to high levels and do lead to more easy-entry sustainable behaviours, but they do not decrease the level of carbon emissions. To some extent, a knowledge/concern–action gap exists. In our study, social status matters less than the literature claims. Our results have two implications. First, the differentiations between developing/developed countries in the global climate debate may be outdated: It is about being part of the global middle classes or not. Second, a positive spillover from existing easy-entry sustainable behaviours to a change in carbon-intensive consumption patterns needs policy support.

About the authors

Never, Babette

Political Scientist

Never
Fuhrmann-Riebel

Kuhn, Sascha

Social Psychology

Kuhn

Further experts

Aleksandrova, Mariya

Climate risk governance 

Altenburg, Tilman

Economic Geography 

Bauer, Steffen

Political scientist 

Brandi, Clara

Economy and Political Science 

Brehm, Johannes

Economy 

Chan, Sander

Enviroment Policy 

Dippel, Beatrice

Comparatist 

Hägele, Ramona

Political Scientist 

Iacobuta, Gabriela

Environmental Researcher 

Lehmann, Ina

Political Science 

Malerba, Daniele

Economy 

Mathis, Okka Lou

Political Scientist 

Pegels, Anna

Economist 

Rodríguez de Francisco, Jean Carlo

Ecological Economist 

Srigiri, Srinivasa Reddy

Agricultural Economist