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Big Data's definition illustrated with texts. By Camelia.boban - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Why I Teach Using "Big Data" to Solve Social Problems

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Big Data's definition illustrated with texts. By Camelia.boban - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,


Stanford and Silicon Valley are at the epicenter of the new economy, transforming the world with technologies and ideas that change the way many of us live.  My goal in teaching the course “Using Big Data to Solve Economic and Social Problems” is to harness this talent and energy to tackle challenging social problems – chronic poverty, disparities in life expectancy, underperforming schools – that have traditionally fallen outside the focus of the tech sector. 

My interest in teaching this course stems from two sources. First, I’ve had a lifelong passion for understanding how we can share the privileges and opportunities that many of us are lucky to have with a broader population.  We need as much talent as we can to work on social problems in an era of growing inequality, and there is no better pool for developing the next generation of leaders to solve these problems than Stanford’s entrepreneurial students.  Second, economics is a field that is often misunderstood by the public as a field that focuses exclusively on forecasting interest rates or stock prices. Economics is undergoing a transformation through the availability of big data, which is making the field much more scientific and powerful. I want to show students how economics is an exciting and meaningful discipline that can be used to solve some of the most important social problems of our time, often by employing some of the same tools that you learn in computer science and statistics courses.  

I hope to see you in class to learn together, work together, and ultimately improve the world together.

Raj Chetty

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