Aspirations and wellbeing essp2-ifpri (july 30, 2010)

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  • A large measure therefore refers to a low level of aspiration Note: the exogenously set maximum is not determinant in itself as long as it is the same for all individuals. However, since they are locally specific and have a framing effect, they may limit the use of instrument for cross-surveys comparisons. So for now, the instrument is mostly to be used to test aspiration relationships.


  • 1. Aspirations Failure and Well-Being Outcomes in Ethiopia
    • Tanguy Bernard
    • Stefan Dercon
    • Kate Orkin
    • Kibrom Tafere
    • Alemayehu Seyoum Taffesse
    • ESSP2, IFPRI
    • July 30, 2010
  • 2. Outline
    • Motivation and objectives
    • Documentaties
    • Survey and Treatment
      • Treatment Design
      • Instrument design
        • Documentaries,
        • Questionnaire,
      • Survey design;
  • 3. Motivation
    • Development discourse and praxis focus on ‘ opportunities ’
    • Why do the poor not ‘invest’ when returns are and/or appear to be high? Fatalism?
      • The present study adopts the aspirations failure approach which:
      • espouses a perspective akin to the fourth set of explanations outlined above;
      • attempts to blend external constraints that the poor face with the potential effect these constraints may have on the internal logic governing choice by them;
      • affords an alternative characterisation of what appears to be fatalism (Ethiopia)
  • 4. Objectives
    • to document measurement and identification issues relevant to the study of aspirations;
    • to devise and implement ways of addressing these measurement and identification problems; and
    • to measure aspirations;
    • to explore the formation of aspirations and their significance to well-being outcomes.
      • Better understanding of poverty dynamics in Ethiopia and possibly elsewhere .
  • 5. Elements of the Aspirations Perspective
    • What are Aspirations?
      • Aspirations have two distinctive aspects:
        • Future-oriented - are goals that can only be satisfied at some future time (differ from immediate gratifications);
        • Motivators - are goals individuals are willing, in principle, to invest time, effort or money in to attain (different from idle daydreams and wishes)
      • Note: the ‘willingness to invest’ is ‘potential’, or ‘conditional’
  • 6. Elements of the Aspirations Perspective
    • How do aspirations condition individual behaviour?
    • Aspiration window :
      • an individual’s cognitive world, his/her zone of ‘ similar ’, ‘ attainable ’ individuals;
      • Reflects the information and economic opportunities of the local environment;
      • Multi-dimensional (‘similarity’);
    • Aspiration gap :
      • difference between the aspired ‘state’ and current ‘state’
      • Conditions future-oriented behaviour - inverted U relationship between gap and effort
    • A possible outcome is an aspiration failure - lack of pro-active behaviour (or ‘under-investment’) towards filling the aspiration gap
  • 7. Challenges
    • Measuring aspiration
      • Aspirations, all aspirations and only aspirations
    • Identifying causal link between:
      • Aspiration window – aspirations
      • Aspiration gap – future oriented behaviour (~towards aspiration failure theory)
    •  Objectives of the current study
  • 8. Documentary time 10/20/10
  • 9. Treatment design
    • Partnership: CARE via VSLA program
    • Outcome variables
      • Changes in aspirations (cf instrument)
      • Participation in VSLAs (whether? How much?)
      • Other future-oriented behaviour (time allocation, saving...)
    • Treatment
      • Watch documentary
      • Window members watching documentaries
      • Address endogeneity by random allocation of invitations and intensity per village
  • 10. Timing Household and individual survey: Aspirations + Xs Random allocation of invitation to movies Screening documentaries Re-survey: Aspirations Re-survey: Aspirations + take-up rate Follow-up take up in CARE’s M&E system
  • 11. Measurement instrument
    • Consider 4 (likely related) dimensions
      • yearly income from all sources
      • Unproductive domestic assets: one’s aspiration in terms of living standard
      • Children’s education level measured by completed years of schooling
      • social status : percentage of individuals in one’s community who would ask for one’s advice before taking any significant decision.
    • Common unit = dimension-free measures:
    • relative distance to an exogenously set
    • maximum
      • Helps framing (no Haile Gebre Selassie)
      • Same for all individuals
      • (  not determinant in itself, but limits
      • cross-survey comparisons)
    • Aggregation: individual-specific weights
  • 12.  
  • 13. Controls
    • Other possible explanations for lack of future-oriented behaviour
      • Low returns to investments
      • Lack of information/knowledge
      • Social constraints
      • Other psychological constraints
    • Eliminated by randomization
    • Test power enhanced by controls
  • 14. Window measurement
    • Objective: find those people that count more in one’s cognitive world
      • Discrete? Continuous?
    • Good ideas???
  • 15. 10/20/10