Executive Summary 33 - What Do Indian Middle Class Attitudes to Poverty Tell Us About the Politics of Poverty Reduction?

What makes the middle classes oppose or support initiatives intended to lift people out of poverty, and how can the development community secure their interest in and approval of such policies? The assumption among donors, development practitioners and researchers is often that the middle class are either not interested in helping the poor, or are motivated by self-interest when they oppose poverty alleviation initiatives because they fear that their own position will become more precarious. This paper examines the attitudes of middle class Indians to poverty, and its findings reveal the complexity of their perceptions and beliefs. It shows that self-interest is not the only driver of middle class disapproval of assistance for the poor. It concludes that a political approach to policy design needs to be less institution-focused and to take public opinion into account.

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