What you'll learn

  • Understand the fundamental concepts that underlie benefit-cost analysis and its advantages and limitations
  • Identify the major components of a benefit-cost analysis and what each should include
  • Increase familiarity with methods for valuing health and longevity, including revealed- and stated-preference studies and their application
  • Learn about sources of guidance, including default values

Course description

Benefit-cost analysis is a well-established and widely used approach for systematically assessing the impacts of environmental, health, and safety policies and informing decisions. It is often a required component of the policy development process followed by many government agencies and organizations around the world.

During the COVID-19 epidemic, benefit-cost analysis has received unprecedented attention by playing an important role in highlighting key trade-offs and informing response efforts and related policies. However, this attention has highlighted confusion about the overall framework, its advantages and limitations, and the approaches used to value mortality risk reductions, commonly referred to as the value per statistical life (VSL). Understanding the appropriate use of benefit-cost analysis and its implications is crucial given the importance of promoting evidence-based decisions as we begin to emerge from the epidemic and face many other crucial policy challenges.

In this short online program, Lisa A. Robinson, a leading Harvard expert on benefit-cost analysis, will aid you in understanding the benefit-cost analysis framework and its application globally. You will learn the methods used for valuing changes in health and longevity, the values recommended for use in high-, middle-, and low-income settings, and the implications of the results. Through interactive presentations, case studies, extensive discussion, and optional office hours, you will develop a deeper understanding of these approaches and of their application.

You will leave this program understanding the advantages and limitations of benefit-cost analysis, improving your ability to evaluate, interpret, and use the results.

Associated Schools

  • Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

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