Chronic Poverty and Aspirations Failures, ESRC End of Award Report. RES-167-25-0364.


How do the extrinsic circumstances (initial status, exclusion or gender) interact with intrinsic factors (aspirations, beliefs) to perpetuate disadvantage? Our research addresses this question by both developing a theoretical framework and carrying out empirical work (two case studies and a lab experiment).

The theoretical framework (a) examines the normative and testable implications of choice in the presence of internal constraints, (b) derives the link between extrinsic circumstances and internal constraints with endogenously determined the cognitive windows and clarifies how the structure of connections between individuals (via initial distribution of status and cognitive windows) determines the transmission of aspirations within societies.

Two case studies- Orchestras for Children and Young Students in Buenos Aires and Sonagachi Project in Kolkata- document techniques (participation in orchestras, dream building sessions and the use of peer educators) used in the field to raise aspirations.

The lab experiment, with participants drawn from undergraduates at Warwick University, focused on the role of gender in determining the predictions of future productivity (goal-setting) in an unfamiliar task and the impact of such prediction on actual performance in carrying out the task. Preliminary results indicate that although, controlling for goal-setting there are no gender differences in actual productivity, men expect to have a significantly higher productivity than women, because women make lower predictions, their actual productivity is lower relative to men. The lab experiment confirmed that predictions about future performance are a reference point that determines productivity and examines the channel by which a key external marker (gender) affects such predictions.


ESRC, Swindon, UK

Chronic Poverty and Aspirations Failures, ESRC End of Award Report. RES-167-25-0364.

Published 1 January 2010