Evaluation of Social Policies & Programs

This PhD-level course offers an introduction to the practical application of microeconomic principles and cutting-edge statistical techniques to the evaluation of social programs. The substantive focus will be on programs in health, education, welfare, and workforce training, focusing especially on cases drawn from Latin America. Students will be invited to work through a series of concrete program evaluations conducted for a number of international and other organizations ranging from the World Bank to NGOs to the governments of Mexico, Brazil, and elsewhere. The primary focus is on the design and execution of program evaluations (the assessment of on-going programs or of programs after the fact). This will call for a solid treatment of:

The formal logic of experimental and quasi-experimental research design
Multivariate statistical techniques (especially those dealing with restricted dependent variables)
The management of large databases
The use of the Stata statistical analysis package
Statistical tools and techniques for dealing with selection bias and other commonly encountered threats to internal validity
And much more…

Readings draw from the literature on program evaluation, quasi-experimental design, and microeconometrics. The econometrics of evaluation has become a particularly exciting area of research in recent years. While technically challenging, it has important implications on public policy analysis. Students will write occasional commentaries on real-world studies and analyze large real-world datasets using the methods and techniques developed in the course. Students willl be evaluated in terms of the quality of their participation in class discussion, two take-home exams, and on their performance on take-home exercises that will be assigned approximately every two weeks.

Prerequisites: Priority is given to 2nd-year PhD students; qualified masters students are also welcome (instructor consent required). Requires that students have a good command of graduate-level econometrics (eg, familiarity with maximum likelihood estimation and logit/probit analysis) and be comfortable working with summation and matrix notation.