The Journal of Economic Inequality

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 491–524 | Cite as

The Foster–Greer–Thorbecke (FGT) poverty measures: 25 years later

  • James Foster
  • Joel Greer
  • Erik ThorbeckeEmail author


Twenty-five years ago, the FGT class of decomposable poverty measures was introduced in Foster, Greer, and Thorbecke (Econometrica 52:761–776, 1984). 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.


Axioms Decomposability FGT measures Income distribution Poverty Stochastic dominance Subgroup consistency 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Elliott School of International Affairs and the Department of EconomicsThe George Washington UniversityWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative, Oxford Dept of International DevelopmentUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  3. 3.Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid ServicesBaltimoreUSA
  4. 4.Department of Economics and Division of Nutritional Sciences, B-16 MVRCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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