IFPRI Gender Methods Seminar, Tuesday, July 28: Aspirations in Rural Pakistan: An Empirical Analysis

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Aspirations in Rural Pakistan: An Empirical Analysis

Presenter: Katrina Kosec

Research Fellow, IFPRI

Discussant: Jessica Heckert

Associate Research Fellow, IFPRI

Tuesday, July 28, 12:30pm-1:30pm EST

Instructions for joining virtually are offered at the end of this message.


Aspirations are goals which people set and intend to achieve; they are increasingly being recognized as an important outcome of interest when considering poverty reduction strategies. As Adam Smith once noted, “The real tragedy of the poor is the poverty of their aspirations.” We examine the aspirations of individuals in 2,090 rural households in Pakistan surveyed by IFPRI in 2012 and again in 2013. We begin by examining individual and household correlates of aspirations, including gender and socioeconomic status. We then analyze what factors might shape aspirations—including how policymakers might raise them. In doing so, we exploit both cross-sectional and panel data to examine how community institutions and infrastructure predict aspiration levels, changes in them over time, and gender gaps in aspirations.   Finally, we carry out cross-sectional and panel data analysis to examine how well aspirations predict agricultural input choice, crop yields, economic behavior, and financial decision making. We show that aspirations are closely linked to whether citizens engage in forward-looking political and economic behavior.

We next step back and look at aspiration formation. Specifically, how do negative economic shocks affect citizens’ aspirations for the future, and can governments’ social protection policies successfully mitigate any damaging effects? Using a natural experiment in Pakistan, the 2010 floods, to identify the effects of a large economic shock on citizens’ aspiration levels, we find that citizens’ aspirations were significantly reduced—especially among the poorest and most vulnerable. However, targeted government social protection policies following natural disasters can significantly reduce their negative aspirational effects. We find that disaster-targeted social protection not only raises social welfare in the short term, but it also has an enduring effect by raising citizens’ aspirations for the future. Our results suggest that not only does the aspiration level of citizens matter, but also that government policies can affect the aspirations of its citizens.

Presenter’s Bio:

Katrina is a Research Fellow in the Development Strategy and Governance Division at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). She is an applied microeconomist working at the intersection of development economics, political economy, and public economics. Her research focuses on the impacts of governance on public investment and outcomes for the poor. She has investigated the impacts of decentralization on growth, environmental investments, tax policy, and public service provision, as well as the effects of income inequality on local governments’ investments in the poor. Her current work examines how political competition and institutions affect the behaviors and aspirations of the poor. Katrina holds a Ph.D. in Political Economics from Stanford University, where she was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow in Economics.

Please find previous presentations from the IFPRI Gender Methods Seminar series on the IFPRI Gender Slideshare.

 For more information about gender research at IFPRI, please visit the IFPRI Gender webpage: http://www.ifpri.org/topic/gender

Instructions for joining virtually via GoToMeeting:

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Access Code: 471-649-525

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Meeting ID: 471-649-525


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