Calendar & Readings

Please visit for the current version of this course syllabus. The page you are viewing is deprecated, from a course last taught in 2016.

Required readings are marked with three stars (***) – students should be prepared to discuss the minutia of these papers, and may be called upon to lead discussion. Recommended readings are marked by a single star (*) – students should skim these articles, to the point that they could summarize the data, methods, and key results. Other readings are optional.

Jan 23: Introduction and Overview

Recommended reading for those less familiar with Python:

Recommended reading for those less familiar with machine learning:

Recommended reading for those less familiar with development economics:

Jan 30: Data Sources: Traditional Data & Satellite Imagery

Feb 6: Data Sources: Mobile phones

Feb 13: Data Sources: Internet and social media

Feb 20: NO CLASS

Feb 27: Data Sources: New forms of instrumentation and intervention

Mar 6: Methodological primer: Econometrics & Machine Learning

March 13: Applications: Migration and mobility

March 20: Applications: Health and Epidemiology


April 3: Applications: Disaster Response and Crime

April 10: Applications: Financial Inclusion

April 17: Ethics and privacy

April 24: Final presentations

Optional: Applications: Social networks

  • Alatas, V., Banerjee, A., Chandrasekhar, A.G., Hanna, R., Olken, B.A., 2016. Network Structure and the Aggregation of Information: Theory and Evidence from Indonesia. American Economic Review 106, 1663–1704. doi:10.1257/aer.20140705
  • Aral, S., Walker, D., 2012. Identifying Influential and Susceptible Members of Social Networks. Science 337, 337–341. doi:10.1126/science.1215842
  • Banerjee, A., Chandrasekhar, A.G., Duflo, E., Jackson, M.O., 2014. Gossip: Identifying Central Individuals in a Social Network (Working Paper No. 20422). National Bureau of Economic Research.
  • Bjorkegren, D., 2014. The adoption of network goods: Evidence from the spread of mobile phones in Rwanda.
  • (*) Blumenstock, J., Tan, X., 2017. Social Networks and Migration: Theory and Evidence from Rwanda. Working paper.
  • Chuang, Y., Schechter, L., 2015. Social Networks in Developing Countries. Annu. Rev. Resour. Econ. 7, 451–472.
  • Ferraz, Claudio, and Frederico Finan. “Exposing Corrupt Politicians: The Effects of Brazil’s Publicly Released Audits on Electoral Outcomes.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 123, no. 2 (May 1, 2008): 703–45. doi:10.1162/qjec.2008.123.2.703.
  • Khwaja, Asim Ijaz, and Atif Mian, 2005. “Do Lenders Favor Politically Connected Firms? Rent Provision in an Emerging Financial Market.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 120, no. 4: 1371–1411. doi:10.1162/003355305775097524.
  • Ugander, J., Backstrom, L., Marlow, C., Kleinberg, J., 2012. Structural diversity in social contagion. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 201116502.

Optional: Applications: Environment & Sustainability