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Cost-Benefit Analysis

Enrollment is Closed

About This Unit

Cost-benefit analysis is a framework that provides policymakers with useful evidence to compare policy decisions in a wide range of areas. In this unit, we will introduce fundamental concepts in cost-benefit analysis, such as the social discount rate, describe various methodologies used to estimate costs and benefits, and highlight common assumptions used in cost-benefit analysis.

Becoming an Effective Consumer of Cost-Benefit Analyses is taught as part of official training programs conducted by institutions collaborating with the Evidence for Policy Design program at the Center for International Development of Harvard University. The unit is part of the Building Capacity to Use Research Evidence program, and aims to equip policy decision-makers with practical skills and frameworks for effectively applying data and evidence in their work. This is one of seven units that help policy makers and government officials become better consumers of policy-relevant evidence and more effective commissioners of new evidence.

What You Will Learn

  • Understand how cost-benefit analyses can play a role in the policy decision-making process.
  • Be able to identify the costs and benefits of a given policy.
  • Understand how costs and benefits are aggregated into an overall measure of net benefits.
  • When faced with a cost-benefit analysis, know what questions to ask in critically consuming that cost-benefit analysis.


  • Some familiarity with public programs and professional experience with the policy process, ideally 5 years or more professional experience.
  • Some familiarity with basic budgeting and statistics.
  • English language proficiency.

The Nature of This as a Private Course

This course is a private course meaning that only learners who are invited can participate.

About Evidence for Policy Design

The Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD) program at Harvard Kennedy School unites research and practice for smart policy. EPoD works to promote the use of analytical insights, drawn from economics and backed by rigorous evidence, to inform the design and implementation of public policies and programs around the world. Through research, teaching, and capacity-building activities, EPoD equips decision makers from around the world with the knowledge and skills necessary to understand how data and evidence can be used most effectively to achieve policy goals. To learn more about EPoD, please visit us at and follow @EPoDHarvard on Twitter.

About Building Capacity to Use Research Evidence

The Data and Evidence for Smart Policy Design project led by Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD) is one of six projects funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) under the Building Capacity to Use Research Evidence (BCURE) program. The project constitutes a multi-year engagement in South Asia to build technical and institutional capacity to integrate data and research evidence into policy decision-making.

Through BCURE, EPoD investigates the individual and organizational constraints to using research evidence and data, and works with local implementing partners to systematically address these constraints in each country's context. The multi-pronged and multi-level capacity building approach includes training as a primary activity.


This material has been funded by UK aid from the UK government; however the views expressed do not necessarily reflect the UK government’s official policies.

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