Aspirations inspire individuals to become more economically and politically involved, but living in poverty often hampers such aspirations. Efforts to increase aspirations could help reduce poverty. At the same time, raising false expectations about future opportunities could lead to discontent, while a focus on behaviour change puts people in poverty at risk of being blamed for their situation.
In this episode, we are joined by two scholars to explore the link between aspirations and poverty. Katrina Kosec is a Senior Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Her research focuses on linkages between economic shocks, gender and governance in a range of different countries, including Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan. Cecilia Mo is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Berkeley. She studies political behaviour, human trafficking and effects of inequality, with research in India, Pakistan and the United States.
Together we discuss the role of aspirations reducing poverty, and whether efforts that try to promote aspirations really help individuals to do better in life. We also consider how inequality can lead a gap between what people aspire to and are realistically able to achieve. Aspirations are a double-edged sword: Raising them is crucial for positive action and forward-looking behaviour, but raising them too high can lead to dissatisfaction or risky strategies.
In this episode, Katrina and Cecilia refer to various authors and research studies.
- Work by Robert Jensen on information about labour market opportunities and aspirations.
- A study by Nilanjana Dasgupta on how peer group work can enhance women’s expectations and aspirations
They also shared their own work (unfortunately not all of these are open access):
- Study by Katrina and colleagues on aspirations and women’s empowerment in Kyrgyzstan
- Book chapter by Katrina and colleague on understanding the aspirations of the rural poor and how aspirations correlated with different cognitive processes
- Research by Katrina and Cecilia on aspirations and the role of social protection: evidence from a natural disaster in rural Pakistan
- Research by Cecilia on perceived deprivation, aspirations and human trafficking in Nepal.
Photo credit: Stefan Stefancik at Pexels.com