WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa are all experiencing economic growth, but Gallup surveys show majorities in just three of the emerging-market economies -- Brazil, China, and India -- are satisfied with their standard of living. Only in China have perceptions improved since 2009. Further, only in Brazil and China do majorities believe their standard of living is getting better.
While most countries' economies were mired in the global financial crisis, China and India realized near double-digit economic growth rates in 2009 and 2010. Countries with the lowest initial GDP per capita of the five countries -- China and India -- experienced the greatest growth. Countries with the highest initial GDP per capita -- Brazil, Russia, and South Africa -- experienced growth in 2010, after economic losses in 2009.
Yet, economic growth has not affected all equally. In Brazil, China, and India, where majorities are satisfied with their standard of living, the rich -- those in the top income quintile of these countries -- report higher satisfaction with their standard of living than the poor -- those in the bottom income quintile. In 2011, the gap between the rich and the poor was the largest in South Africa and the smallest in Russia. Between 2009 and 2011, each country experienced a decreasing gap in satisfaction with living standards -- with the exception of Brazil, where there were already small differences between the rich and poor. Brazilians experienced the most satisfaction with their standard of living across income levels, possibly reflecting the relative economic stability under Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's leadership.
Only in Brazil and China do majorities believe their standard of living is improving, and this is true for the rich and the poor. In India, Russia, and South Africa the rich and poor feel more pessimistic about their future prospects, and sentiment varies greatly by income level.
It is uncertain how long high growth rates will last for emerging-market countries. To continue to spur high growth rates and allow gains across income levels, leaders must implement sustainable policies. The Brazilian government, for example, enacted social policies, including expanding the conditional cash transfer program Bolsa Familia throughout the 2000s. China implemented poverty reduction programs over the same time period in collaboration with the World Bank. Both these countries see high optimism about living standards and lower disparities across income levels.
For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact SocialandEconomicAnalysis@gallup.com or call 202.715.3030.
The results are based on face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, in South Africa, Russia, and Brazil, and 3,500 adults in India in 2011. Results in China are based on face-to-face and telephone interviews with approximately 4,200 adults in 2011. In 2010, the results are based on face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000 adults in South Africa and Brazil, 2,000 adults in Russia, and 6,000 adults in India. Results in China in 2010 are based on face-to-face and telephone interviews with approximately 4,200 adults. Results in these countries in 2009 are based on face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000 adults in South Africa and Brazil, 2,000 adults in Russia, and 3,000 adults in India. Results in China in 2009 are based on face-to-face and telephone interviews with approximately 4,200 adults.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error in 2011 ranged from a low of ± 2.0 percentage points to a high of ±3.5 percentage points.
For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.