News Release

MIT expands access to graduate education for nontraditional learners in Data, Economics, and Design of Policy program

Unique Master's program encourages an evidence-based approach to fighting poverty worldwide

Business Announcement

Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab

Meet students in MIT's Master's in Data, Economics, and Design of Policy



Alumni from the third cohort of students in the J-PAL/MIT Data, Economics, and Design of Policy (DEDP) master’s program reflect on why they chose the program and share what they have found to be most valuable about their experience.

view more 

Credit: J-PAL

The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are announcing an expansion of their jointly administered Master’s Program in Data, Economics, and Design of Policy (DEDP), housed in the MIT Economics Department. This expansion adds a new Public Policy Track to complement the existing International Development Track, opening up new avenues for student learning and research.

Designed to tackle poverty alleviation and other pressing policy challenges in the United States and other high-income countries, the curriculum of the new track spans a diverse set of issues, from domestic concerns like minimum wage and consumer welfare to global matters including trade, climate change, and immigration. Applications for the Public Policy Track will open in fall 2024, with the inaugural cohort set to arrive on MIT’s campus in spring 2026. 

The DEDP program, led by J-PAL co-founders and Nobel Laureates Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo along with professors Sara Fisher Ellison and Benjamin Olken, was established with the mission of equipping diverse cohorts of talented professionals with the knowledge and skills to tackle poverty using evidence-based approaches. The new master’s degree track will support this mission while also underscoring the program’s commitment to addressing a broad array of critical challenges in the fight against poverty worldwide. 

"The DEDP program has proven successful on many dimensions, and we are enthusiastic about leveraging its successes to address a broader set of social challenges,” said Sara Fisher Ellison, a faculty lead for the program. “The Public Policy Track will enable us to apply evidence-based methodology to poverty alleviation and other related issues in the context of high-income countries, as well. Given increasing levels of wealth and income inequality in these countries, we feel that the timing is opportune and the need is great."

The DEDP program distinguishes itself with an innovative admissions model that prioritizes demonstrated ability and motivation over traditional credentials, such as standardized tests and recommendation letters. To be eligible to apply to the master’s program, candidates must have earned their DEDP MicroMasters credential by passing five of the DEDP online courses. The courses are completely free to audit. Those who wish to earn a course certificate can pay a fee, which varies by the learner’s ability to pay, to take the proctored exam. While applications are reviewed holistically, performance in these classes is the primary factor in admissions decisions. 

This approach democratizes access to higher education, enabling students from typically underrepresented backgrounds to demonstrate their potential for success. Notably, the program has welcomed many students from nontraditional backgrounds, such as a student who enrolled directly from high school (and who is now a second year PhD student in economics at MIT), reflecting the ambition of its faculty directors to make higher education more accessible.

Sofia Martinez, a graduate of the class of 2023 and now co-founder of Learning Alliance, shared, "Without the MicroMasters paving the way, applying to MIT or any similar institution would have been unthinkable for us. Initially, my aim in taking the online courses wasn't to pursue the residential program; it was only after witnessing my own progress that I realized the possibility wasn't so distant after all. This sentiment resonates with many in our cohort, which is truly humbling.”

Since its launch in 2020, the DEDP Master’s program has conferred degrees to 87 students from 44 countries, showcasing its global reach and the success of its admissions model. Upon arriving on campus, students embark on an accelerated master's program. They complete a full course load in the spring, followed by a capstone project in the summer, applying the theoretical knowledge and practical skills gained through the program at research and policy organizations.

Applications for the Public Policy Track of the Master’s in Data, Economics, and Design of Policy will open in fall 2024. For more information, visit the DEDP website or contact us


About J-PAL: The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) is a global research center working to reduce poverty by ensuring that policy is informed by scientific evidence. With a network of more than 900 researchers at universities worldwide, J-PAL conducts randomized impact evaluations to answer critical questions in the fight against poverty. Through partnerships with governments, NGOs, and donors, J-PAL shares this knowledge, scales up effective programs, and advances evidence-informed decision-making. Founded in 2003 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, J-PAL has regional centers in Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa, North America, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Learn more at

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.