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Class Distinctions

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This story appears in the January 1996 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Now that America is saturated with stuff, everyone's talking about the growing middle class in developing countries as the hot new market. But does the term "middle class" really mean the same thing in Paraguay as it does in Peoria? Are these consumers, many of them brand spanking new to the concept of disposable income, international versions of the Joneses? Or does rising income in, say, China simply mean more people can now afford refrigerators?

Entrepreneurs, being bottom-line types by nature, want to know which international markets are home to consumers with the purchasing power to afford their products. Yet this seemingly simple question has stumped even the best industry analysts.

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