MIT’s Master of Applied Science in Data, Economics, and Design of Policy program adds a public policy track

Students have new avenues for learning and research on the most effective approaches to fighting poverty in the US and other high-income countries.

MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) and Department of Economics have announced an expansion of their jointly administered Master of Applied Science in Data, Economics, and Design of Policy (DEDP) program. 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 this fall, with the inaugural cohort set to arrive on MIT’s campus in spring 2026.

The DEDP program, led by MIT professors 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," says 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 a 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 candidate 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 , says, "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.