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The Future in Mind: Aspirations and Forward-Looking Behaviour in Rural Ethiopia

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  • Tanguy Bernard
  • Stefan Dercon
  • Kate Orkin
  • Alemayehu Seyoum Taffesse

Abstract

Poor people often do not make investments, even when returns are high. One possible explanation is that they have low aspirations and form mental models which ignore some options for investment. This paper reports on findings of an innovative experiment to test this in rural Ethiopia. Firstly, individuals were randomly invited to watch documentaries about people from similar communities who had succeeded in agriculture or small business, without help from government or NGOs. A placebo group watched an Ethiopian entertainment programme and a control group were simply surveyed. Secondly, the number of invitees was varied by village to assess the importance of peer effects in the formation of aspirations. Six months after the screening of the documentaries, aspirations had improved among treated individuals but did not change in the placebo or control groups. Effects were larger for those with higher aspirations at baseline. We also find evidence of treatment effects on savings and credit behaviour, children’s school enrolment and investments in children’s schooling, suggesting that changes in aspirations can translate into changes in forward-looking behaviour. There are also positive treatment effects on a set of related measures from psychology and sociology, including a measure of locus of control, which theory predicts should behave in similar ways to aspirations. We also find that peer effects result in further impact on educational spending and induce more work and less leisure. That a one-hour documentary shown six months earlier induces such actual behavioural change offers challenging and promising areas for further research and the design of poverty-related interventions.

Suggested Citation

  • Tanguy Bernard & Stefan Dercon & Kate Orkin & Alemayehu Seyoum Taffesse, 2014. "The Future in Mind: Aspirations and Forward-Looking Behaviour in Rural Ethiopia," CSAE Working Paper Series 2014-16, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
  • Handle: RePEc:csa:wpaper:2014-16
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    Cited by:

    1. Karen Macours & Renos Vakis, 2017. "Sustaining Impacts When Transfers End: Women Leaders, Aspirations, and Investments in Children," NBER Chapters,in: The Economics of Poverty Traps National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Schurer, Stefanie, 2017. "Bouncing back from health shocks: Locus of control and labor supply," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 133(C), pages 1-20.
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    6. Igei, Kengo & Yuki, Takako, 2015. "Determinants of School Enrollment of Girls in Rural Yemen: Parental Aspirations and Attitudes toward Girls’ Education," Working Papers 107, JICA Research Institute.
    7. Mekonnen, Daniel Ayalew, 2016. "Social Interactions and Aspirations Formation in Rural Ethiopia," Discussion Papers 250150, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF).
    8. Allen, Jeffrey & Chakraborty, Shankha, 2015. "Aspirations, Health and the Cost of Inequality," MPRA Paper 64087, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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    12. Luisa Natali & Sudhanshu Handa & Amber Peterman & David Seidenfeld & Gelson Tembo & UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti, 2016. "Making Money Work: Unconditional cash transfers allow women to save and re-invest in rural Zambia," Papers inwopa827, Innocenti Working Papers.
    13. Calderone, Margherita & Fiala, Nathan & Mulaj, Florentina & Sadhu, Santadarshan & Sarr, Leopold, 2014. "When Can Financial Education Affect Savings Behavior? Evidence From A Randomized Experiment Among Low Income Clients of Branchless Banking in India," Working Papers 32, University of Connecticut, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Charles J. Zwick Center for Food and Resource Policy.
    14. Jonathan Temple & Huikang Ying & Patrick Carter, 2014. "Transfers and Transformations: Remittances, Foreign Aid, and Growth," Bristol Economics Discussion Papers 14/649, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK, revised 02 Dec 2014.
    15. Andrés Moya & Michael Carter, 2014. "Violence and the Formation of Hopelessness and Pessimistic Prospects of Upward Mobility in Colombia," NBER Working Papers 20463, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    18. Kosec, Katrina & Mo, Cecilia Hyunjung, 2015. "Aspirations and the role of social protection: Evidence from a natural disaster in rural Pakistan:," IFPRI discussion papers 1467, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
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    21. Wuepper, David & Sauer, Johannes, 2016. "Explaining the performance of contract farming in Ghana: The role of self-efficacy and social capital," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 11-27.
    22. Daniel Ayalew Mekonnen & Nicolas Gerber, 2017. "Aspirations and food security in rural Ethiopia," Food Security: The Science, Sociology and Economics of Food Production and Access to Food, Springer;The International Society for Plant Pathology, pages 371-385.
    23. Ghosal, Sayantan & Jana, Smarajit & Mani, Anandi & Mitra, Sandip & Roy, Sanchari, 2016. "Sex Workers, Self-Image and Stigma: Evidence from Kolkata Brothels," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 302, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    24. Katrina Kosec, 2015. "Aspirations and the Role of Social Protection: Evidence from a Natural Disaster in Rural Pakistan," Working Papers id:7662, eSocialSciences.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    aspirations; expectations; future-oriented behaviour; media interventions;

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being

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