Watson Institute at Brown University
Public Policy

PLCY Core Classes

The core requirements provide concentrators with the foundation for understanding and conducting policy analysis.

Intro to Public Policy

PLCY 0100 Introduction to Public Policy (Prereq for PLCY 1400 Ethics and Public Policy)

An overview of policymaking and policy analysis in the contemporary United States. The course begins with an examination of traditional justifications for government action. We will then examine the discipline of policy analysis that has arisen to design and evaluate public policies. We will also consider critiques of the rational method and ask questions about how policy expertise fits into the political system. The course ends with classic works on organizations and implementation. Fall


ANTH 1242 Bioethics and Culture
This course examines bioethics from an ethnographic point of view. Topics include pregnancy, death, suicide, disability, medical research, organ transplantation, and population control. We will distinguish between the moral experiences of people faced with difficult choices, and the ethical ideals to which they aspire. We will then ask: how can these perspectives be reconciled? When trying to reconcile these perspectives, how can we account for powerful dynamics of race, gender, class, religion, and cultural difference? Finally, how can we develop a code of ethics that takes these issues into account and also is fundamentally connected to everyday life?

CSCI 1870 Cybersecurity Ethics 
This timely, topical course offers a comprehensive examination of ethical questions in cybersecurity. These issues pervade numerous, diverse aspects of the economy and society in the Information Age, from human rights to international trade. Students will learn about these topics, beginning first with acquaintance with the dominant ethical frameworks of the 20th and 21st centuries, then employing these frameworks to understand, analyze, and develop solutions for leading ethical problems in cybersecurity. The things that you learn in this course will stay with you and inform your personal and professional lives. 

DATA 0080 Data, Ethics and Society 
A course on the social, political, and philosophical issues raised by the theory and practice of data science. Explores how data science is transforming not only our sense of science and scientific knowledge, but our sense of ourselves and our communities and our commitments concerning human affairs and institutions generally. Students will examine the field of data science in light of perspectives provided by the philosophy of science and technology, the sociology of knowledge, and science studies, and explore the consequences of data science for life in the first half of the 21st century. 

PHIL 0200H Contemporary Ethical Issues
Are we morally obligated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? Do we have moral obligations toward nature, animals and other people, for instance future generations and refugees? Is abortion morally wrong? Is legalization of drugs the right thing to do? In this course we will explore these and other contemporary ethical issues in the context of important moral theories; utilitarianism, virtue ethics, and the social contract theory. This course will serve as an introduction to applied ethics and normative ethics.

PLCY 1400 Ethics and Public Policy

What are the moral foundations of public policy analysis? How should individuals act when faced with ethical dilemmas in public life? This course will engage those questions in depth, beginning with case studies in ethics and policy and moving to cases involving ethical quandaries and moral dilemmas in public life. 

Economics for Public Policy (Choose One)

PLCY 1600 Economics for Public Policy

This course examines the role of the public sector in the economy. We begin by exploring when and how the government intervenes in the economy. We also consider the impact of government intervention. We then use this theoretical foundation to examine current issues in expenditure, education, health, retirement, business competition, environment, cybersecurity, crime, financial, and tax policy. The student will acquire analytical skills to better evaluate existing and alternative public policy alternatives. Qualitative and quantitative methods will be used throughout the course. Fall

ECON 1110 Intermediate Microeconomics

(Prereqs MATH 0060, 0070, 0090, 0100, 0170, 0180, 0190, 0200, or 0350; and ECON 0110)
Tools for use in microeconomic analysis, with some public policy applications. Theory of consumer demand, theories of the firm, market behavior, welfare economics, and general equilibrium. Fall/Spring

ECON 1130 Intermediate Microeconomics-Mathematical

(Prereqs MATH 0100, 0170, 0180, 0190, 0200, or 0350; and ECON 0110)
Microeconomic theory: Theories of the consumer and firm, competitive equilibrium, factor markets, imperfect competition, game theory, welfare economics, general equilibrium. Fall/Spring

EDUC 1130 Economics of Education I

How do we attract good teachers to public schools? What are the economic returns to early-childhood intervention programs? These are just two examples of important education policy questions. This course introduces key concepts of microeconomic theory and uses them to analyze these and other policy questions. Organized around a structured sequence of readings. First-year students require instructor permission. Spring

Statistics for Public Policy

EDUC 1110 Intro Statistics for Education Research and Policy Analysis

This course provides an introduction to applied statistics for conducting quantitative research in the social sciences, with a focus on education policy. Students will become acquainted with the fundamentals of probability, descriptive and summary statistics, tabular and graphical methods for displaying data, statistical inference, analytic methods for exploring relationships with both categorical and continuous measures, and multivariate regression. Concepts and methods are taught using real-world examples with multiple opportunities for students to apply these methods in practice. The course uses the statistical software program, STATA. Spring

POLS 1600 Political Research Methods

Introduction to quantitative research methods in political science. Topics include research design, descriptive statistics, statistical hypothesis testing, and bivariate and multivariate regression. By the end of the course, students will have the requisite skills to intelligently consume and produce basic quantitative social science research. Spring

SOC 1100 Introduction to Statistics for Social Research

Introduction to descriptive and inferential statistics: measures of central tendencies and variability, sampling, tests of significance, correlation, and regression. Also includes the use of computers in data analysis. Knowledge of elementary algebra is assumed. Fall/Spring

ECON 1630 Econometrics I

Advanced introduction to econometrics with applications in finance and economics. How to formulate and test economic questions of interest. The multivariate linear regression model is treated in detail, including tests of the model's underlying assumptions. Other topics include asymptotic analysis, instrumental variable estimation, and likelihood analysis. Convergence concepts and matrix algebra are used extensively. Fall/Spring

Policy Analysis and Program Evaluation

PLCY 1200 Program Evaluation

Students in this course will become familiar with the concepts, methods, and applications of evaluation. We will build intuition around the experimental and quasi-experimental method commonly used in practice so that students learn how to interpret evaluation results, read evaluation research critically, and understand the pros/cons of each method. We will draw on illustrations and case studies from a variety of substantive policy areas Prerequisite: PLCY 0100, and POLS 1600 or EDUC 1110 or SOC 1100 or ECON 1620, or written permission of instructor. Spring