(with Garance Genicot), December 2019. Forthcoming, Annual Review of Economics.
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. We discuss the implications of this framework for the study of interpersonal inequality, social conflict, fertility choices, risk taking and goal-setting.