54 million people fell out of the global middle class last year as the K-shaped recovery went international

Brooklyn food pantry coronavirus
People line up outside a food pantry in Brooklyn on Nov. 12, 2020.

  • Roughly 54 million people fell out of the global middle class during the pandemic recession, Pew data shows.
  • About 152 million people sank into the lower-income class or into poverty, reversing years of improvement.
  • Poorer economies saw the biggest losses, adding to the global recovery’s K-shaped trend.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As economies turn toward reopening and recovery, the coronavirus’ economic toll is coming into focus. The picture is incredibly bleak.

The distribution of COVID-19 vaccines presents a clear end to the pandemic, but new data from the Pew Research Center suggests that returning to pre-pandemic unemployment levels is only the first step toward a full rebound. The firm estimates that 54 million more people fell out of the global middle class in 2020 than would have had the pandemic not emerged.

The classification includes people who live on $10 to $20 a day, or those who earn roughly $14,600 to $29,200 a year. That spread straddles the US poverty line and is well below median earnings in advanced economies.

That decline would’ve been larger had China, which is home to more than one-third of the world’s middle class, not avoided a recession, Rakesh Kochhar, senior researcher at Pew, said. Still, growth in that country has slowed significantly as it faces obstacles to vaccinating its huge population.

Separately, about 152 million people fell from the global upper and middle class into the lower class and poverty. Pew’s definition of global poverty encompasses those living on less than $2 a day, or earning less than $2,920 a year for a family of four.

Like other aspects of the economic downturn, the pandemic’s negative effects have driven an uneven, K-shaped recovery. Middle-class dropouts were most concentrated in South Asia, East Asia, and the Pacific, as those regions saw growth in that cohort stall well before the pandemic hit. The increase in those classified as “poor” was primarily seen in India and Sub-Saharan Africa, reversing years of progress and plunging the regions into new economic pain, Kochhar said.

The regional disparities reflect observations made by the International Monetary Fund in its latest economic projections. The organization expects emerging-market and low-income economies to “suffer more significant medium-term losses,” as they lack the fiscal firepower to power a stronger recovery. Countries with large dependencies on the tourism industry also risk prolonged downturns, the IMF said.

“Recoveries are diverging dangerously across and within countries,” wrote Gita Gopinath, chief economist for the IMF.

At the same time, data collected by Bloomberg show wealthier countries vaccinating 25 times faster than the world’s poorest nations. Advanced economies snapped up doses throughout the fall, creating a shortage that further inflames the recovery’s K-shaped trend.

To be sure, the pandemic only exacerbated trends seen for many years. Most of the world’s population landed in either the low-income or poor groups before the health crisis, while high-earners made up the smallest group. Yet the virus’s damage to service jobs, which are primarily staffed by minorities, low-earners, and women, widened the gaps.

That’s not to say progress can’t be made. The global middle-class population grew by 54 million people annually on average from 2011 to 2019. The pandemic only erased a year of gains at that pace.

Poverty, however, jumped by 131 million people in 2020 after falling at an average annual rate of 49 million people, according to Pew. The setback signals that, at the pre-pandemic pace of improvement, it will still take years to rebound.

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54% of Republicans said they believe the Capitol insurrection is getting too much attention, a new Pew survey shows

capitol riots flag
A group of Trump protesters wave flags while standing on an armored police vehicle on the grounds of the Capitol Building in Washington DC, on January 6, 2021.

  • Over half of Republicans – 54% – said they think the Capitol riots are getting too much attention.
  • 40% of Democrats said they think too little attention is being paid to the siege, a Pew poll found.
  • Democrats and Republicans also differed on the importance of prosecuting the rioters.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Over half of Republicans and Republican-leaning adults said they believe the Capitol riots are getting too much attention, according to a new Pew Research Center survey on Americans’ views on the January 6 insurrection.

In the poll, 54% of Republicans said they think too much attention is being paid to the riots, while 33% said they think the right amount of attention is paid and 11% thought that too little attention is being paid.

Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning respondents, 40% think too little attention is being paid to the deadly violence and only 8% think the riots are receiving too much attention.

And among all Americans surveyed, 27% think too little attention is being paid to the riots, 44% said they think about the right amount of attention is being paid to them, and 28% believe too much attention is being paid.

Read more: Inside Merrick Garland’s bid to boost morale in the federal prosecutor’s office handling the January 6th Capitol riot cases, one of the largest investigations in US history

Pew surveyed over 12,000 American adults through their American Trends Panel between March 1 and March 7 to gauge their views on the Capitol insurrection over two months after the event. The survey has a margin of error of ±1.5 percentage points.

There were also partisan divides among the respondents on questions of how important it is to prosecute the rioters and whether they believe punishments will be too severe or not severe enough.

Among all Americans, 87% said they believe it’s very or somewhat important to prosecute the rioters, compared to 79% of Republicans and 95% of Democrats.

Additionally, 37% of Republicans but only 10% of Democrats said the penalties they expect the rioters to receive will be more severe “than they should be,” while 65% of Democrats but only 26% of Republicans said they believe the rioters will receive less severe punishments than they should.

More than 315 people have been charged in connection with the insurrection on the US Capitol, but several suspects are still at large.

In one major breakthrough for the investigation on Thursday, a grand jury indicted two men on charges of conspiracy to injure by spraying the fallen Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick with bear spray. Sicknick was one of five people who died as a result of the riots.

Last week, the FBI also released surveillance footage of the suspect they believe placed pipe bombs outside the headquarters of the Democratic and Republican National Committees’ headquarters in the Capitol Hill neighborhood on January 5.

The prosecution of Capitol rioters is among the most wide-ranging and labor-intensive in the Department of Justice’s history and spans the entire federal court system.

In a recent court filing in the DOJ’s case against nine defendants affiliated with the extremist Oath Keepers movement, federal prosecutors said they expect to charge at least 100 more defendants and have received over 210,000 tips. They called the probe “likely the most complex investigation ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice.”

Expanded Coverage Module: capitol-siege-module

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