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Foundations of Development Policy

Massachusetts Institute of Technology via edX

students interested
  • Provider edX
  • Subject Economics
  • $ Cost Free Online Course
  • Session Upcoming
  • Language English
  • Effort 12-14 hours a week
  • Start Date
  • Duration 11 weeks long

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This course is part of the new MITx MicroMasters program in Data, Economics, and Development Policy (DEDP). To enroll in the MicroMasters track or to learn more about this program and how it integrates with MIT’s new blended Master’s degree, please visit the MicroMasters portal

In this course, we will study the different facets of human development in topics such as education, health, gender, the family, land relations, risk, informal and formal norms, public policy, and institutions. While studying each of these topics, we will delve into the following questions:

  • What determines the decisions of poor households in developing countries?
  • What constraints are poor households subject to?
  • What is the scope for policy interventions (implemented by the government, international organizations, or NGOs)?
  • What policies have been tried out? Have they been successful?

At the same time, you will discover modern empirical methods in economics, in particular Randomized Control Trials (RCTs). Throughout the course, we will expose you to all facets of empirical projects, from experimental design and ethical issues, to data collection and data analysis.You will have the chance to gain experience working with real data using software for statistical analysis during weekly assignments.


Module 1: Introduction and the Cycle of Poverty
Introduction to the scale of the problem, disparities between rich and poor countries, and different approaches to understanding development.
Module 2: Nutrition and Productivity
Presenting a theoretical framework for thinking about the relationship between income, nutrition, and poverty. Important methodological concepts include the causality problem and randomization design. Includes an in-depth case study of demand for and provision of health care in India.
Module 3: Education
Decisions about investing in children’s education and perceived returns to education. Introduction to instrumental variables estimation and innovative data collection methods.
Module 4: Gender in the Family
The impact of development policy on gender and intrahousehold dynamics. Introduction to ethical issues and solutions for working with human subjects.
Module 5: Insurance
How the poor deal with risk in the face of uncertainty and financial constraints. Introduction to modeling how households smooth consumption over time.
Module 6: Land
Theoretical and historical perspectives on land reform and property rights. Refresher of fixed effects and control variables in regression analysis.
Module 7: Credit
Discussion of market failures that microfinance seeks to address and the impact of microfinance on the credit-constrained poor.
Module 8: Savings
Discussion of savings as a risk mitigation and consumption smoothing strategy. Market and behavioral constraints on saving.
Module 9: The Role of Government
Discussion of key functions played by the government in provision of public goods, how to effectively target and reach the poor.
Module 10: Political Economy
Persistent impact of historical factors and institutions on current outcomes. In-depth discussion of instrumental variables and regression discontinuity design as identification strategies.
Module 11: Corruption
Strategies to measure and mitigate corruption.

Taught by

Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo


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