WEBINAR: Aspirations, trust, and poverty reduction


by PIM | December 5, 2018

When: December 19, 2018, 10-11 AM EST
Presenter: Katrina Kosec, Senior Research Fellow, IFPRI
Moderator: Frank Place, Director, PIM

See the presentation on SlideShare:

Photo credit: Katrina Kosec

Understanding the psychological dimensions of poverty is critical for understanding how to alleviate it. The goal of this webinar is to highlight novel research on two psychological phenomena that are closely linked with experiencing poverty and economic vulnerability: 1) having low aspirations, or ambitions, for the future, and 2) having low levels of trust or confidence in one’s government.

What are aspirations, why do they matter, and how are they formed? How can they be affected by development interventions, or by negative shocks—which the poor frequently face? And how are aspirations and trust in government linked?

High-aspiring individuals engage in forward-looking economic and political behaviors that tend to benefit their households and society, as revealed by IFPRI research from Ethiopia and Pakistan. In the political sphere, high-aspiring individuals tend to have higher levels of political knowledge and civic engagement, and they are also more likely to grow distrustful of their government when they experience poverty and relative deprivation. This suggests that as aspirations rise, efforts to reduce societal inequalities and poverty are critical to maintain trust in government and thus political stability.

So, what can policymakers do to blunt the negative psychological effects of poverty and shocks, and to more broadly bolster aspirations and trust? Effective social protection appears to be one answer, as shown by a study we carried out in Pakistan following dramatic floods in 2010. Further work from Tanzania suggests that the impacts of social protection on trust can be magnified if local government regularly holds meetings, which allow for the free flow of information about the program as well as other community affairs.

Overall, this research highlights the importance of considering the negative psychological tolls of poverty and of designing policies that can avert them. Such policies can avoid aspiration failures and distrust in government, thus promoting growth and stability.

The presentation will be illustrated with examples from case studies in Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Pakistan.


Katrina Kosec is a Senior Research Fellow in the Development Strategy and Governance Division at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) where she is Theme Leader for Public Investment. She works at the intersection of political economy, development economics, and public economics. Her research focuses on the linkages between governance, public investment, and poverty. One strand of work investigates the impacts of decentralization and local political competition on welfare and poverty. A second considers individual aspirations, including what drives them and how they influence economic, political, and social behaviors and opinions. A third considers the drivers and impacts of migration. At PIM, Katrina leads the research cluster on Gender, Agricultural Productivity, and Rural Transformation under Flagship 6: Cross-cutting Gender Research and Coordination. Katrina holds a Ph.D. in Political Economics from Stanford University, where she was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow in Economics.

About PIM Webinars

The PIM Webinars aim to share findings of research undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM), discuss their application, and get feedback and suggestions from participants. Webinars are conducted by PIM researchers in the form of research seminars. Each webinar is a live event consisting of a presentation (30 min) and a facilitated Q&A session (30 min). Recordings and presentations of the webinars are freely available on the PIM website.

See previous PIM webinars here

Studies in Pakistan and Tanzania featured in this webinar were undertaken as part of and co-funded by the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and carried out with support from the CGIAR Funders. This research would not be possible without the critical support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) (the study in Pakistan) and the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie), the Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund (SIEF), and the Trust Fund for Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development (TFESSD) (the study in Tanzania).


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