Professor James Foster

Professor James Foster

Visiting Professor

International Inequalities Institute

English, Spanish
Key Expertise
Inequality, Poverty, Welfare, Mobility, Economic theory, Axiomatic method

About me

Oliver T Carr Jr Professor of International Affairs and Professor of Economics, George Washington University

Research Associate, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, Oxford University

Professor Foster received his bachelor’s in mathematics and economics from New College (Florida) and his doctorate in economics from Cornell University and held tenured positions at Purdue and Vanderbilt before coming to GW. His research broadly lies within welfare economics — using economic tools to evaluate and enhance the wellbeing of people. He regularly engages in what what might be called intentional measurement – a reflective process by which metrics are constructed to guide policy. A widely cited paper with Joel Greer and Erik Thorbecke introduced the FGT poverty indices, which have been used in thousands of studies and were the basis for targeting the Progresa/Oportunidades program in México. A paper with Sabina Alkire introduced a counting approach for measuring multidimensional poverty that is having a wide academic and policy impact. Applications include the global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) published annually by the UNDP and OPHI Oxford, dozens of national MPIs used to guide policy against poverty, the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) at USAID, the Gross National Happiness Index of Bhutan, the Better Jobs Index of the InterAmerican Development Bank, and the Statistical Performance Index of the World Bank.

Other research includes a book with Amartya Sen on inequality and poverty measurement; papers on measuring literacy with Kaushik Basu; a paper on distribution sensitive human development with Miguel Szekely and Luis Felipe Lopez-Calva which led to the Inequality Adjusted Human Development Index of the UNDP; and a series of papers with Anthony Shorrocks on partial orders of inequality and poverty. Current topics include mobility, multidimensional inequality, and the link between unidimensional and multidimensional measures.

Expertise Details

Inequality; Poverty; Welfare; Mobility; Economic theory; Axiomatic method