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Who and What is the Middle Class

Periodic Report Summary 2 - WWMC (Who and What is the Middle Class)

The project’ success exceeded expctations. With the help of the Marie Currie grant, Tel Aviv University established a research lab for the study of the middle class. Professor Itai Sened received a major gift from the Boris Mints Insitutute to match the Marie Currie funding. He was named the head of the Institute shortly thereafter and the head of the new School of Social and Policy Studies at the Faculty of Social Sciences at Tel aviv University. With the added support he oversees four Ph.D. students and seven MA students. Professor Sened introduced to the core curriculum of the department of Public Policy a course on the welfare of the middle class taught at the regular program and the executive program, designed for executives in the public sector, ranking officials in the local and central government. Students get insight directly from cutting edge research by Professor Sened and his research students at the lab. Professor Sened and his students appeared in numerous academic conferences and soilicited lectures in eastern and western Europe discussing their findings, and have thus fully reintegrated into the European academic and practitioners communities.
In terms of scientific progress, the PI and his students have completed the major goal of the project, namely to put together a new theoretical and measurement framework for the study of the welfare of the middle class in OECD and other advanced economies. They have now moved on to the empirical part of the project where based on the the large and significant eu-silc data base (Eurostat, 2017). This data base has been purchased and independently scrutinized by many scholars, including the team of Professor Sened and seems to exhibit the required quality for the research. Two pilot studies of the case of Israel and the case of the U.K. have been completed. Four papers have been published and four more papers are under review in different refereed journals. Finally an ERC grant proposal has just been submitted based on this research effort.
The main scientific finding that is highly applicable for policy making in advanced economies, is that the current methods of judging the size and strength of the middle class by the traditional methods of cut points in the income distribution of household was shown to be misleading and inadequate for policy making. The research team built a new measurement method based on the understanding that the middle class is a group of individuls whose rights and privileges are protected by the state in ways that help the group become a lot more productive and contribute to the welfare and economic prosperity of society as a whole. The spread of the new neo-libral and globalization ideologies hurt this class tremendously, way more than previous estimates suggest. The new theory and evidence has been comprised to better understand the phenomenon but also offer specific policy remedies that, if implemented, might help return this economic engine of growth to the strength it enjoyed in the second half of the 20th century.