Comparative Economic Studies

, Volume 58, Issue 4, pp 507–538 | Cite as

The Middle-Income Trap: Definitions, Theories and Countries Concerned—A Literature Survey

  • Linda GlaweEmail author
  • Helmut Wagner
Survey Article


The term middle-income trap (MIT) usually refers to countries that have experienced rapid growth and thus quickly reached middle-income status, but then failed to overcome that income range to further catch up to the developed countries. This paper surveys the MIT literature. It begins by laying out different approaches to defining the MIT and by presenting as well as classifying the most important empirical studies. After a short overview of the currently identified MIT countries, the article summarizes the main explanatory approaches, taking into account both the theoretical foundations and the empirically identified triggering factors.


middle-income trap middle-income countries economic growth economic development growth slowdowns catching up 

JEL Classification

O10 O40 


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Copyright information

© Association for Comparative Economic Studies 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of HagenHagenGermany

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