I study the role of aspirations in economic development drawing on the existing theoretical and empirical literature and provide some new empirical findings using individual level data on aspirations across countries. After discussing the relationship between aspirations and individual investments, I present estimates on the correlates and determinants of students’ aspirations in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment data. I focus in particular on socioeconomic status, inequality, and institutional features that lead to horizontal segregation of education systems. I then address the question of whether and how aspirations can be changed, covering recent policy interventions that leverage psychological factors, stereotypes and norms, and material endowments.
La Ferrara, Eliana. "Presidential Address: Aspirations, Social Norms, and Development." Journal of the European Economic Association 17.6 (December 2019): 1687-1722.