$400: Are the Indian middle class richer than Americans?


Over the last few days, we’ve been hearing the magical number: $400. According to a report on the economic well-being of US households, four in 10 American adults, if faced with an unexpected expense of $400, “would either not be able to cover it or would cover it by selling something or borrowing money.”

$400 equals approximately Rs 28,000, something an Indian middle class family would easily have in the bank. Most don’t have mortgages or hefty car payments and while the standard of living may not be comparable, they are better off financially compared to 40% of Americans.

And, even if they had to raise $400, an Indian middle class individual, in a gold-rich state like Kerala could easily pawn a minute amount of gold.

Exactly four years ago, another  study, “Beyond Broke: Why closing the racial wealth gap is a priority for national economic security,” by the Center for Global Policy Solutions had forewarned us of these disturbing trends. The study said that African Americans had just $200 in liquid assets, meaning  financial assets that can quickly be converted into cash, while Whites had $23,000, Asians had $19,500 and Latinos had just $340.

The median liquid wealth of whites is over 100 times that of blacks and 65 times that of Latinos. For most African Americans and Latinos, checking accounts are their only asset.

So, who is sleeping well at night? Whose quality of life is better? This is hard to judge but considering the current government shutdown, I think the Indian middle class are better off.

The last I heard, an average coconut tree climber in India has more than $400 in his bank.