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Aspirations in Economics: A Review



This paper reviews the literature on aspirations in economics, with a particular focus on socially determined aspirations. The core theory builds on two fundamental principles: (a) aspirations can serve to inspire, but still higher aspirations can lead to frustration and resentment; and (b) aspirations are largely determined by an individual’s social environment. Explicitly using the structure of this core theory, we discuss the implications of our framework for the study of interpersonal inequality, social conflict, fertility choices, risk taking and goal-setting.


Debraj Ray, New York University, and Garance Genicot, Georgetown University

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