Economics of Ultra-Poverty


IIEP faculty led by Professors James Foster and Stephen Smith are engaged in research and policy analysis on extreme (or ultra-) poverty in the developing world. IIEP’s ultra-poverty initiative focuses on basic and applied research, organizing conferences, work with international organizations, and both technical and policy publications. IIEP is well placed to emerge as one of the world’s leading centers for scholarship on global poverty with our widely cited research and high-quality events building to a major international conference in spring 2012.

Our overarching theme is multidimensional measurement and analysis of poverty and poverty programs. James Foster’s influential work on multidimensional measurement provides the underpinnings of the new UNDP Multidimensional Poverty Index; Professor Foster is applying this work to measurement in several fields including educational quality, women’s wellbeing, health, nutrition, and corruption. In addition, IIEP faculty are working on design and impact of multidimensional poverty programs, multidimensional screening of poverty program eligibility, and multidimensional poverty traps analysis. Read the complete overview here.


In 2009, with the support of a generous donor who has chosen to remain anonymous, the IIEP Ultra-poverty Initiative was launched at the Institute for International Economic Policy, which is part of the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. Since then, there have been over a dozen IIEP events on poverty and human development, with many more to come.

The Initiative is coordinated by James E. Foster and Stephen C. Smith; several other GW faculty are participating. You may read about other IIEP faculty with expertise in poverty and download IIEP working papers on poverty.

Urbanization and Poverty Reduction 

The Urbanization and Poverty Reduction Research Conference brings together academics and development practitioners to present and discuss questions relating to People, Markets, and Cities. In particular, the conference will focus on effective land, housing, transport and local labor market policy in cities and their implications for economic development and social inclusion.

This conference is hosted by the World Bank (Development Research Group), George Washington University (Institute for International Economic Policy) and the Inter-American Development Bank (Housing and Urban Development Division and Department of Research).

Please contact for more information.

GW is committed to digital accessibility. If you experience a barrier that affects your ability to access content on this page, let us know via the Accessibility Feedback Form.