Middle-Income Groups in Kenya. Conflicting Realities Between Upward Mobility and Uncertainty

Dieter Neubert

For more than a decade scholars mostly from economy and development studies have

described the rise of a newly emerging ‘middle class’ in the Global South including

Africa. This has led to a ‘middle class narrative’ with the ‘middle class’ as the backbone

of economic and democratic development. Especially with regard to the stability

of the position of the people in the ‘middle’, empirical social science studies challenge

the ‘middle class narrative’ and at their uncertainty and insecurity. This tension

between upward mobility at the one hand uncertainty and instability at the other

hand (the vulnerability-security nexus) and the options to cope with this challenge

under the condition of limited provision of formal social security is the focus of this

case study on Kenya. Instead of an analysis of inequality based on income, it is more

helpful to start from the welfare mix and the role of social networks as main elements

of provision of social security. Against this background, we identify different strategies

of coping that go together with different sets of values and lifestyles, conceptualised as

milieus, that are not determined by the socio-economic situation.

Keywords: middle class, middle-income group, social policy, social security, vulnerability, social networks, lifestyles, milieus, Africa, Kenya

Vol: 1/2019 - Article 1.4

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18753/2297-8224-132

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