China's middle class overtakes US as the world's largest

© Fred Dufour
The US middle class, long considered a measure of prosperity, has for the first time been overtaken by China. A hundred and nine million people now make up China's middle class compared to 92 million in the US, says the 2015 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report.

While the middle class grew at a slower pace than wealth at the top end, the report forecasts Asia will see the greatest expansion.

"The middle class will continue to expand in emerging economies overall, with a lion's share of that growth to occur in Asia,” said Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam in the report.

“As a result, we will see changing consumption patterns as well as societal changes as, historically, the middle class has acted as an agent of stability and prosperity," he added.

Credit Suisse defines the middle class in terms of a wealth band rather than an income range, in order to be more mobile to a temporary drawback such as a spell of unemployment.

© Credit Suisse

While Europe and the US account for the majority of global wealth, CEO Thiam says "the growth of wealth in emerging markets has been most impressive, including a five-fold rise in China since the beginning of the century."

Accounting for a fifth of the world's population, China holds nearly 10 percent of global wealth, according to the report.