Aspirations and Economic Behavior

Annual Review of Economics

Vol. 12:715-746 (Volume publication date August 2020)
First published as a Review in Advance on June 5, 2020


This article 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. 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.


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