Big Data for Social Good

Big social problems require big data solutions

This Harvard online course teaches core concepts in data science, economics, and statistics and equips you to tackle the pressing challenges of our time.

Featuring faculty from:
New dates for Big Data for Social Good coming soon!

What You'll Learn

The American Dream—the idea that through hard work any child can rise up and achieve a higher standard of living than their parents—is fading: only half of kids today will go on to earn more than their parents did. Why has this happened? And, how can we reverse the fading of the American Dream?
“Big data” is often associated with corporations seeking to improve products by collecting data on customers. What if we could use big data for social good—to address problems such as the fading American Dream, growing income inequality, or persistent racial disparities?
Big Data for Social Good will teach you how to use big data, coupled with the tools of data science and economics, to solve some of the most important social problems of our time. Big data can help us cut through politically charged debates and find out what policies actually work from a scientific perspective, making the often-discussed notion of “evidence-based policymaking” a reality. Using big data, we can see how the specific neighborhoods in which we grow up and the schools we attend shape our life outcomes—and how we can take these insights to create better opportunities for all. 

The course will be delivered via HBS Online’s course platform and immerse learners in real-world examples from experts at industry-leading organizations. By the end of the course, participants will be able to:

  • Examine historical income, education and family support, and geography to understand how these economic factors lead to upward mobility
  • Understand how big data is used to identify the causes of socioeconomic disparities and how data can lead to evidence-based action and outcomes
  • Explore economic methodologies, such as statistical models, regression analysis, and quasi-experiments in data set combinations
  • Utilize economic frameworks and apply them to your work
  • Use evidence to engage and gain support of communities and constituents to drive systemic policy developments and changes

Your Instructor

Raj Chetty, PhD, is the William A. Ackman Professor of Public Economics at Harvard University and Director of Opportunity Insights. His research uses “big data” to understand how we can give children from disadvantaged backgrounds better chances of succeeding. Chetty's research combines empirical evidence and economic theory to help design more effective government policies. His work on topics ranging from tax policy and unemployment insurance to education and affordable housing has been widely cited in academia, media outlets, and Congressional testimony. He has received numerous awards for his research, including a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship and the John Bates Clark medal, given to the economist under 40 whose work is judged to have made the most significant contribution to the field.

Real World Case Studies

Affiliations are listed for identification purposes only.

Geoffrey Canada

Geoffrey Canada

Hear from Geoffrey Canada, an educator, social activist, and author, about his pioneering work in helping children and families in Harlem and about place-based innovations.

Sarah Oppenheimer

Sarah Oppenheimer

Learn how Sarah Oppenheimer’s work bridges research with applied policy and practice to address poverty and support families’ outcomes.

Nathaniel Hendren

Nathaniel Hendren

Explore research based on the core question “Do markets provide opportunity?”

Who Will Benefit

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Community activists and nonprofits

Use big data and economic principles to gain support and advocate for change in underserved communities.

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Policy advocates and public sector employees

Serve the needs and requests of your communities better through evidence-based research and defined policy outcomes.

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Students and Recent Graduates

Learn how to combine disparate data sets that lead to key findings, insights, and solutions for addressing economic societal problems.

Earn Your Certificate

Enroll today in Harvard Online's Big Data for Social Good course.

Apply Now

Still Have Questions?

Are there discounts available for this course? What are the learning requirements? How do I list my certificate on my resume? Learn the answers to these and more in our FAQs.


Big Data for Social Good Certificate

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