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The Foster-Greer-Thorbecke (FGT) Poverty Measures: Twenty-Five Years Later


  • James E. Foster

    () (Institute for International Economic Policy, George Washington University)

  • Joel Greer

    (Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services)

  • Erik Thorbecke

    () (Department of Economics and Divinsion of Nutirtional Services, Cornell University)


Twenty-five years ago, the FGT class of decomposable poverty measures was introduced in Foster, Greer, and Thorbecke [54]. The present study provides a retrospective view of the FGT paper and the subsequent literature, as well as a brief discussion of future directions. We identify three categories of contributions: to measurement, to axiomatics, and to application. A representative subset of the literature generated by the FGT methodology is discussed and grouped according to this taxonomy. We show how the FGT paper has played a central role in several thriving literatures and has contributed to the design, implementation, and evaluation of prominent development programs: the breadth of its impact is evidenced by the many topics beyond poverty to which its methodology has been applied. We conclude with a selection of prospective research topics.

Suggested Citation

  • James E. Foster & Joel Greer & Erik Thorbecke, 2010. "The Foster-Greer-Thorbecke (FGT) Poverty Measures: Twenty-Five Years Later," Working Papers 2010-14, The George Washington University, Institute for International Economic Policy.
  • Handle: RePEc:gwi:wpaper:2010-14

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item


    Axioms; decomposability; FGT measures; income distribution; poverty; stochastic dominance; subgroup consistency;

    JEL classification:

    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • B21 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - Microeconomics


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