A new MIT masters in Data, Economics, and Development Policy from MIT and JPAL

Today MIT announced the launch of a new masters in Data, Economics, and Development Policy (DEDP) offered by MIT’s Economics Department and J-PAL. The masters will be a hybrid of online and in-person courses. After taking courses in development economics, microeconomics, data analysis, and the practicalities of running RCTs, candidates will take an in-person exam at sites around the world (where people take their SATs and GREs). Students will then receive a “MicroMasters” and the top candidates will be invited to attend MIT in person to complete the full masters (online courses will be converted to MIT credit). After a semester of classes in MIT’s Economics Department, students will complete a summer of practical research—including on J-PAL projects. Those with access to the internet and high school level calculus and willing to work hard will be able to access some of the best teaching the world has to offer and can compete for a place at MIT.

Why have we put so much energy over the last few years into developing this MicroMasters with a path to a full in-person’s MIT masters? We believe passionately that development policy can benefit from more people rigorously trained in data and economics. We know there are many very smart dedicated people around the world who could benefit enormously from an MIT training but can’t access the level of courses they need to get into a top university. Even if they could, many of them can’t leave their families for one or two years for a typical masters. With the MicroMasters, thousands will be able to take technical economics courses while they work at their day job. I was fortunate to be able to get my masters and PhD in economics, so I feel particularly pleased to open this opportunity to others. We also believe that MIT will benefit enormously from the diverse range of experience that the in person students will bring to our classrooms.  

DEDP is also unusual in being much more practical than many other masters programs: it fits the proud MIT tradition of uniting mind and hand “mens et manus”. One of the five online courses is the soon to be released “Designing and Running Randomized Evaluations”.  This will cover developing different RCT designs, how to do power calculations in practice, survey design, data collection management, and units on measurement (I just recorded the lecture on measuring women’s empowerment). And those who come to MIT will spend their summer experiencing the rigors of data collection in the field, often as part of a J-PAL project.

Finally, we are hoping that other universities will use the MicroMasters courses and exam as a launch pad to their own DEDP masters so that many more in-person places are offered at top institutions around the world.

The MicroMasters program is now open for enrollment for courses beginning in February 2017; the DEDP master’s degree will launch in 2019. For more information and to sign up for the MicroMaster see this link.