Training the Next Generation

Using Big Data to Solve Economic and Social Problems

A central part of Opportunity Insights’ mission is to train the next generation of researchers, practicioners, and leaders on methods to study and improve economic opportunity and tackle social and economic problems more generally.

We achieve this mission through a pre-doctoral fellowship program for students who have completed their undergraduate degrees and by teaching both undergraduates and graduate students.

We also make some of courses and course materials available online for free use by others.  One class that may be of interest to the general public is a course on “Using Big Data Solve Economic and Social Problems” taught by Raj Chetty.

This course shows how “big data” can be used to understand and solve some of the most important social and economic problems of our time. The course gives students an introduction to frontier research in applied economics and social science that does not require prior coursework in Economics or Statistics. Topics include equality of opportunity, education, health, the environment, and criminal justice. In the context of these topics, the course provides an introduction to basic statistical methods and data analysis techniques, including regression analysis, causal inference, quasi-experimental methods, and machine learning. To learn more about the motivation for this class and our approach to teaching at Opportunity Insights more generally, see this article.

See below for lecture videos and slides from the last time this class was taught. This course will be offered again at Harvard University (open to all students, no prerequisites) in Spring 2019. Click here for more information.

Lecture Materials


Course Syllabus


Complete Set of 11 Lectures


Lecture 1
Introduction and the Geography of Upward Mobility


Lecture 2
Policies to Improve Upward Mobility


Lecture 3
Opportunity, Innovation, and Economic Growth


Lecture 4
Higher Education


Lecture 5
Primary Education


Lecture 6
Do Charter Schools Work?


Lecture 7
Improving Health Outcomes


Lecture 8
The Economics of Health Care and Insurance


Lecture 9
Social Costs of Climate Change and Pollution


Lecture 10
Policies to Mitigate Climate Change


Lecture 11
Criminal Justice and Discrimination

Interested in learning more? Apply to join our team as a pre‑doctoral fellow.