Aspirations and Inequality

35 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2014 Last revised: 31 Jan 2021

See all articles by Garance Genicot

Garance Genicot

Georgetown University - Department of Economics

Debraj Ray

New York University (NYU) - Department of Economics; Autonomous University of Barcelona - Instituto de Analisis Economico (CSIC)

Date Written: March 2014

Abstract

This paper develops a theory of socially determined aspirations, and the interaction of those aspirations with growth and inequality. The interaction is bidirectional: economy-wide outcomes determine individual aspirations, which in turn determine investment incentives and social outcomes. Thus aspirations, income and the distribution of income evolve jointly. When capital stocks lie in some compact set, steady states distributions must exhibit inequality and are typically clustered around local poles. When sustained growth is possible, initial histories matter. Either there is convergence to an equal distribution (with growth) or there is perennial relative divergence across clusters, with within-cluster convergence. A central feature that drives these results is that aspirations that are moderately above an individual’s current standard of living tend to encourage investment, while still higher aspirations may lead to frustration.

Suggested Citation

Genicot, Garance and Ray, Debraj, Aspirations and Inequality (March 2014). NBER Working Paper No. w19976, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2411279

Garance Genicot (Contact Author)

Georgetown University - Department of Economics ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States
202-687-7144 (Phone)
202-687-6102 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.georgetown.edu/faculty/gg58

Debraj Ray

New York University (NYU) - Department of Economics ( email )

269 Mercer Street, 7th Floor
New York, NY 10003
United States
212-998-8906 (Phone)
212-995-4186 (Fax)

Autonomous University of Barcelona - Instituto de Analisis Economico (CSIC)

Campus UAB
E-08193 Bellaterra
Spain

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