James E. Foster Ph.D.

The Elliott School of International Affairs
George Washington University
Email: fosterje@gwu.edu Discipline: Economics Expertise: Health Care Inequalities

Investigator Award
Understanding Health Disparities from an Economic Perspective
Award Year: 2000 Recent discoveries linking income inequality and various health outcome measures have sparked debate among health analysts about this issue, its magnitude, causes, and linkages. Many economists remain skeptical about the importance or validity of this hypothesis. Using perspectives of economic theory, this study increases our understanding of the nature and causes of health inequalities. It provides a conceptual foundation for discussing health disparities; explores the validity of a conceptual framework for the relative income hypothesis; and uses both a relative education hypothesis and a proximate literacy hypothesis to analyze the interplay of other economic variables and health outcomes. The project contributes a new resource on the methods and evidence pertaining to health disparities; provides information about differences in education levels contributing to ill health; and considers how group characteristics affect individual outcomes.


James E. Foster is professor of economics and international affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. Previously, he was professor of economics, director of the graduate program in economic development at Vanderbilt University, and senior research fellow in the Vanderbilt Institute of Public Policy Studies. Dr. Foster joined Vanderbilt in 1990 after a decade as a faculty member in the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University. He has held visiting positions at Cornell and the University of Essex (England) and spent a research leave at Cornell and NYU. He is a core member of the MacArthur Foundation's Network on Inequality and Poverty in a Broader Perspective. Dr. Foster's main research interests are mainly in microeconomics, with special emphasis on measurement issues related to the distribution of income and well-being. Work includes papers on: measuring health inequality (with R A. Allison), measuring literacy (with Kaushik Basu), group identity and inequality (with Ravi Kanbur), comparing investment projects (with Tapan Mitra), and decomposable inequality measures (with Artyom Shneerov).