Foster Greer Thorbecke

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The Foster-Greer-Thorbecke (sometimes referred to as FGT) metric is a generalized measure of poverty within an economy.[1] It measures the weighted shortfall from the poverty line. It is also incorporates the inequality among the poor.

FGT measure was developed by Professor Erik Thorbecke, his former student Professor Joel Greer, and another graduate student at Cornell University at the time, Professor James Foster.

The formula for the FGT is given by:

FGT_\alpha=\frac {1} {N} \sum_{i=1}^H (\frac {z-y_i} {z})^\alpha

where z is an agreed upon poverty line (1.25$ or 2$ per day adjusted for purchasing power parity are the two most common poverty lines used by the World Bank. Developed countries usually have much higher poverty lines), N is the number of people in an economy, H is the number of poor (those with incomes at or below z), y_i are individual incomes and \alpha is a "sensitivity" parameter. If \alpha is low then the FGT metric weights all the individuals with incomes below z roughly the same. If \alpha is high, those with the lowest incomes (farthest below z) are given more weight in the measure. The higher the FGT statistic, the more poverty there is in an economy.

The FGT measure corresponds to other measures of poverty for particular values of \alpha. For \alpha=0, the formula reduces to

FGT_0=\frac {H} {N}

which is the Headcount ratio, or the fraction of the population which lives below the poverty line. If \alpha=1 then the formula is

FGT_1=\frac {1} {N} \sum_{i=1}^H (\frac {z-y_i} {z})

which is the average poverty gap, or the amount of income necessary to bring everyone in poverty right up to the poverty line, divided by total population. This can be thought of as the amount that an average person in the economy would have to contribute in order for poverty to be just barely eliminated.

While the two above versions are widely reported, a good deal of technical literature on poverty uses the \alpha=2 version of the metric:

FGT_2=\frac {1} {N} \sum_{i=1}^H (\frac {z-y_i} {z})^2

as in this form, the index combines information on both poverty and income inequality among the poor. Specifically in this instance the FGT can be rewritten as:

FGT_2=H \mu^2 + (1-\mu^2) C_v^2

where C_v is the coefficient of variation among those with incomes less than z, H is the total number of the poor as above, and \mu is given by

\mu=\frac {1} {H}\sum_{i=1}^H  (\frac {z-y_i} {z}) .

Other decompositions of the index are also possible.[2] The only measure that combines FGT_0, FGT_1 and the Gini Index is the Sen Index.[citation needed]

The \alpha = 2 version of the index was part of the Mexican Constitution[3] and was used to allocate inter-regionally funds from the Federal Government in Mexico for educational, health and nutritional programs benefiting the poor. In 2010 the Government of Mexico adopted a multidimensional poverty measure based on a variant of the FGT measure that is to be used in targeting the allocation of social funds to poor households at the municipality level.[4]


  1. ^ Foster, James; Joel Greer and Erik Thorbecke (1984). "A class of decomposablepoverty measures". Econometrica. 3 52: 761–766. doi:10.2307/1913475. 
  2. ^ Mauricio Olavarria-Gambi: "Poverty Reduction in Chile: has economic growth been enough?", Journal of Human Development, Vol. 4, No. 1, 2003
  3. ^ [1]
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