The majority of economic decisions are forward-looking and thus involve expectations of future outcomes. Understanding the expectations that individuals have is thus of crucial importance to designing and evaluating policies in health, education, finance, migration, social protection, and many other areas. However, the majority of developing country surveys are static in nature and many do not elicit subjective expectations of individuals. Possible reasons given for not collecting this information include fears that poor, illiterate individuals do not understand probability concepts, that it takes far too much time to ask such questions, or that the answers add little value. This paper provides a critical review and new analysis of subjective expectations data from developing countries and refutes each of these concerns. We find that people in developing countries can generally understand and answer probabilistic questions, such questions are not prohibitive in time to ask, and the expectations are useful predictors of future behavior and economic decisions. The paper discusses the different methods used for eliciting such information, the key methodological issues involved, and the open research questions. The available evidence suggests that collecting expectations data is both feasible and valuable, suggesting that it should be incorporated into more developing country surveys.
- Subjective expectations
- Survey methodology