Citizens’ aspirations are increasingly recognized as an important dimension of their well-being. Those with high aspirations set ambitious goals for themselves, and those with low aspirations may fall prey to a poverty trap. Do natural disasters negatively impact aspirations? If so, can governments blunt these effects? We consider Pakistan’s devastating 2010 floods—and the government’s uneven relief efforts—to analyze these questions. We first show that the extreme rainfall generating this disaster significantly reduced aspirations, even when current levels of household expenditure, wealth, and education are taken into account. Individuals experiencing 2010 monsoon season rainfall that was one standard deviation higher than average had aspiration levels 1.5 years later that were 0.15 standard deviations lower than those of similar individuals experiencing just average levels of rainfall.
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