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.
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
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.
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.
Learn how Sarah Oppenheimer’s work bridges research with applied policy and practice to address poverty and support families’ outcomes.
Explore research based on the core question “Do markets provide opportunity?”