by Jim Patterson
A Vanderbilt economist whose work on anti-poverty measures is one of the foundations of Mexico’s “Oportunidades” program to help the poor has been honored in that country.
James E. Foster, professor of economics and senior fellow at Vanderbilt’s Institute for Public Policy Studies, received a rare Honorary Degree of Doctor Honoris Causa from the Autonomous University of the State of Hidalgo. In the 135-year history of the university, only six others have received the honor, bestowed to “professors and researchers for their … science working toward the improvement of the living conditions and welfare of mankind.”
Foster was presented the honorary degree on Feb. 23 at the university.
“I feel incredibly honored by this,” he said. “How nice that people who I’ve never met have read my work and feel that it’s worth noting.”
The “Progresa” program in Mexico, now called “Oportunidades,” was crafted by Mexican economist Santiago Levy, who used Foster’s system of measuring poverty to identify the correct participants for his program.
Levy instituted a system to pay poor families to keep their children in school and take them to health clinics for health care. The program has proven so successful that 25 countries have adopted versions of it, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg is considering offering similar incentives to the poor in New York City.