photo: James Foster

James E. Foster

Professor of Economics and International Affairs
Faculty: Full-Time
Suite 502
Address: Elliott School of International Affairs
1957 E Street, NW
Phone: 202-994-8195
Fax: 202-994-5477

Areas of Expertise

International economic development; inequality and poverty; economic theory and policy


James E. Foster is Professor of Economics and International Affairs at the George Washington University. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Cornell University and holds a Doctorate Honoris Causa from Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Hidalgo (Mexico).

Professor Foster's research focuses on welfare economics — using economic tools to evaluate and enhance the wellbeing of people. His joint 1984 Econometrica paper (with Joel Greer and Erik Thorbecke) is one of the most cited papers on poverty. It introduced the FGT Index, which has been used in thousands of studies and was employed in targeting the Progresa CCT program in México. Other research includes work on economic inequality with Amartya Sen; on the distribution of human development with Luis Felipe Lopez-Calva and Miguel Szekely; on multidimensional poverty with Sabina Alkire; and on literacy with Kaushik Basu. Foster regularly teaches introductory and doctoral courses on international development and each spring joins with Professor Basu in presenting an undergraduate course on Game Theory and Strategic Thinking, to which staff and Board members of the World Bank are also invited.

Professor Foster is also Research Fellow at the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), Department of International Development, Oxford University, and a member of the Human Capital and Economic Opportunity (HCEO) Working Group, Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics, University of Chicago. This year he is serving on the World Bank’s Commission on Global Poverty.


Ph.D., Cornell University

B.A., New College (Florida)

Classes Taught

ECON 2151 Economic Development

ECON 8352 Development Economics II

IAFF 2040 Game Theory and Strategic Thinking