Job Title: Research Associate
Contact Details: The Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University,
1957 E Street, NW Suite 502, Washington, D.C. 20052, USA
Tel: (202) 994-8195 (office)


James Foster is Professor of Economics and International Affairs at The Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University. Professor Foster received his Ph.D. in Economics from Cornell University where he received the Selma Fine Goldsmith Award for his dissertation. He held positions at the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University and Department of Economics at Vanderbilt before joining the Elliott School. He has been a visiting professor at the London School of Economics, Cornell, Essex, Oxford, Harvard, and the University of the Americas in Puebla, Mexico. He received the Unilever Fellowship (UK) and the Robert Wood Johnson Investigator Award in Health Policy, and holds a Doctorate Honoris Causa, from Universidad Autonoma del Estado de Hidalgo (Mexico).

Professor Foster’s research focuses on welfare economics — using economic tools to evaluate the well-being of people. His joint 1984 Econometrica paper is one of the most cited papers on poverty; it introduced the FGT Index, which has been used in thousands of studies and was the basis for targeting the Progresa/Oportunidades program in Mexico. Other work includes a book project on economic inequality with Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen; a paper on poverty and growth in a recent issue of the International Economic Review with Miguel Szekely, Undersecretary of Education in Mexico; a paper measuring multidimensional poverty with Sabina Alkire, Director of Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative; and research on inequality in human development in Latin America with Luis Felipe Lopez Calva, Chief Economist, UNDP, Latin America and the Caribbean. Professor Foster recently visited Harvard University where he co-taught a doctoral seminar on Welfare Economics with Professor Sen.


Cornell University, (Ph.D. Economics, 1982)

Selma Fine Goldsmith Dissertation Award, 1982

McVoy Fellowship, Cornell University, 1979-81

New College, Florida (B.A. Economics and Mathematics, 1977)

Selected Publications

Foster J. E., M. McGillivray and S. Seth (2009), Rank Robustness of Composite Indices, Working Paper 26, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, University of Oxford, Oxford.

“Measuring Chronic Poverty,” in Poverty and Social Exclusion: New Methods of Analysis, (G. Betti and A. Lemmi eds.), Routledge 2013; also published as OPHI Working Paper 52.

“Counting and Multidimensional Poverty Measurement” (with Sabina Alkire), Journal of Public Economics 96 (2011) 476-487, also published as OPHI Working Paper 07.

“Understandings and misunderstandings of multidimensional poverty measurement,” The Journal of Economic Inequality, June 2011, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 289-314; also published as OPHI Working Paper 43.

“Where did identification go?” The Journal of Economic Inequality September 2011, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 501-505; also published as OPHI Working Paper 43b.

“Freedom, Opportunity and Wellbeing,” Handbook of Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 2 (K. Arrow, A. Sen, and K. Suzumura, eds.), North Holland; also published as OPHI Working Paper 35.

“On Measuring Vulnerability to Poverty” (with I. Dutta and A. Mishra), Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 37 (2011).

The Foster-Greer-Thorbecke Poverty Measures: Twenty Five Years Later” (with J. Greer and E. Thorbecke), Journal of Economic Inequality, vol. 8 (2010) pp. 491-524.

Polarization and the Decline of the Middle Class” (with M. C. Wolfson), Journal of Economic Inequality 8 (2010) 247-273; also published as OPHI Working Paper 31.

“Notes on Effective Freedom”, OPHI Working Paper 34, March 2010.

“Designing the Inequality-Adjusted Human Development Index (HDI),” UNDP HDR Background Paper; also published as OPHI Working Paper 37.

“A Report on Mexican Multidimensional Poverty Measurement,” in Medición Multidimensional de la Pobreza en México (Julio Boltvinik, et al, eds.), El Colegio de México; also published as OPHI Working Paper 40.

Investing in Health: The Long-Term Impact of Head Start on Smoking” (with K. Anderson and D. Frisvold), Economic Inquiry, Volume 48, Issue 3, pages 587–602 (July 2010).

Is Economic Growth Good for the Poor? Tracking Low Incomes Using General Means” (with M. Székely), International Economic Review, Volume 49, Issue 4, pages 1143–1172 (November 2008).

“External Capabilities” (with C. Handy), in Arguments for a Better World: Essays in Honor of Amartya Sen (Kaushik Basu and Ravi Kanbur, Eds.), Oxford: Oxford University Press (December 2008); also published as OPHI Working Paper 08.

“A Class of Chronic Poverty Measures,” in Poverty Dynamics: Towards Inter-disciplinary Approaches (Anthony Addison, David Hulme, and Ravi Kanbur, Eds), Oxford: Oxford University Press (January 2009).

“Counting and Multidimensional Poverty Measurement,” in Journal of Public Economics 96 (2011) 476-478, also published as OPHI Working Paper 07.

“Inequality Measurement,” in The Elgar Companion to Development Studies (David Clark, Ed.), Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2006.

‘Poverty Indices’ in Poverty, Inequality and Development: Essays in Honor of Erik Thorbecke (Alain de Janvry and Ravi Kanbur, eds.), Amsterdam: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2005.

“Measuring the Distribution of Human Development: Methodology and an Application to Mexico,” (with Luis F. Lopez Calva and M. Székely), Journal of Human Development, Volume 6, 2005, pp. 5 – 25.

Curriculum Vitae

Foster CV

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