Statistics for Public Policy

Course Number: 
GAFL 611


  • Fall 2016


Course Description: 

This course is actually two courses rolled into one. The first class is PSCI 692, which is the required course in statistical analysis for Political Science Ph.D. students. The second one is GAFL 611, the required course in statistical analysis for students in the Fels school. The two classes will meet together on Mondays and Wednesdays for lectures, and on Fridays for the Stata labs. The PSCI 692 students will also meet several times separately with Professor Levendusky to discuss various applications of regression and quantitative methods separately.

This is the required course in statistical analysis for graduate students in political science and public policy/public administration. Increasingly, ours is a quantitative field. These days, even qualitative researchers need to be skilled consumers (if not outright producers!) of at least some quantitative scholarship. For example, consider any of the following key questions in political science: what is the probability that two states will go to war in a given year? How does their level of trade and democratization affect this probability? Do left-wing governments help or hinder economic growth? How likely is it that a Democrat will vote for a Republican Presidential candidate? Likewise, those interested in public policy and public management are often concerned with various types of program evaluation: did giving low-income children after-school tutoring improve their academic performance? Did Philadelphia’s “big belly” trash cans actually reduce the amount of litter on our streets? Answering any of these questions requires statistical analysis.

This course aims to lay the groundwork for you to answer these (and many more!) questions.  The point here is not to convince you to adopt a quantitative design for your own work, or that quantitative designs are the “best” designs for answering all questions. Rather, the goal is to give you a set of tools that will enable you to read, critique and eventually produce your own quantitative research. The course will introduce you to the logic of social scientific inquiry, and the basic statistical tools used to analyze politics and public policy.

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Contact Information

Fels Institute of Government
University of Pennsylvania
3814 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Phone: (215) 898-2600
Fax: (215) 746-2829