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Poverty, Aspirations, and the Economics of Hope


  • Travis J. Lybbert
  • Bruce Wydick


We propose a framework for understanding the role of hope and aspirations in economic development. We review literature related to hope from philosophy, theology, and psychology, as well its relationship to emerging work on aspirations in development economics. We then build an economic model of hope based on recent psychology literature that understands hope as a function of aspirations, agency, and pathways. This model of hope illustrates the vital role hope can play in the realization of causal effects from development interventions and how these effects emerge from the impact and interaction of three constituent elements of hope. By clarifying definitions and relationships among these concepts and by leveraging relevant work from other disciplines, we aim to create a framework within which economists can engage in rigorous empirical and experimental work that seeks to better understand the role of hope and aspirations in economic development.

Suggested Citation

  • Travis J. Lybbert & Bruce Wydick, 2018. "Poverty, Aspirations, and the Economics of Hope," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 66(4), pages 709-753.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:ecdecc:doi:10.1086/696968
    DOI: 10.1086/696968

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    Cited by:

    1. Moya, Andrés & Carter, Michael R., 2019. "Violence and the formation of hopelessness: Evidence from internally displaced persons in Colombia," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 113(C), pages 100-115.
    2. Ross, Phillip H., 2019. "Occupation aspirations, education investment, and cognitive outcomes: Evidence from Indian adolescents," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 123(C), pages 1-1.
    3. Bellemare, Marc F. & Bloem, Jeffrey R., 2018. "Does contract farming improve welfare? A review," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 112(C), pages 259-271.
    4. Aguinaga, Paulina & Cassar, Alessandra & Graham, Jennifer & Skora, Lauren & Wydick, Bruce, 2019. "Raising achievement among microentrepreneurs: An experimental test of goals, incentives, and support groups in Medellin, Colombia," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 161(C), pages 79-97.

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