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Using 'Car Index' as a Mesure Economic Progress for Middle Class

The International Monetary Fund says worldwide growth is weaker than expected because of economic concerns in Europe and the United States. But there is some positive news.

The number of cars being made is on the rise. That is a sign that the world's economy is moving in the right direction. Measuring economic progress, especially for groups like the middle class, is not easy. But a little known economic indicator is beginning to gain acceptance.

The so-called "car index" is an attempt to measure the world's middle class based on the number of people who own cars. Experts say that the number of people who own cars in the developing world is rapidly increasing. That is because there are about 70 countries with a population of about 3 billion people who are quickly approaching an important income level: $4,000 per person.

Experts say when that level is reached, a country's middle class increases very quickly. This rise in average income means greater demand for goods that are considered non-essential. And many of these goods are produced in Japan, Germany and the United States.

The International Monetary Fund says consumer spending in developed nations has fallen since the economic downturn of 2008. The fund's managing director, Christine Lagarde, points to the debt crisis in Europe and problems in the United States economy as threats to global economy. Growth could be slower than the IMF had predicted earlier in the year. On the other hand, recent studies show consumer spending in developing countries has increased three times faster than in developed economies.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Carolyn Presutti.