Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



Heather Schofield


India has the greatest number of poor people in the world. It is also a deeply divided community with multiple overlapping identities. This paper explores the role aspirations play in perpetuating poverty and furthering social stratification. More specifically, it explores trends in the occupational and educational aspirations of the youth from disadvantaged communities in India to determine if the conditions are consistent with the criterion for a poverty trap. This is particularly relevant because 34.8% of the Indian Population is between the age group of 15-24 years, classified youth (2011 census).

Using data from the Young Lives dataset, the paper explores the mechanisms through which occupational and educational aspirations are formed: culture, external constraints, and self-concepts. It also empirically tests the theorized non-monotonic, inverse-U shaped relationship between aspirations gap and agency in the Indian context. The paper finds that occupational aspirations are shaped by all three channels while educational aspirations are mainly constrained by access. Muslims and Scheduled Castes aspire to occupations with lower levels of prestige.


aspirations, poverty trap, caste, Muslim, India



Date Posted: 03 January 2020


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