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Quantitative Sequence

MPAff Quantitative Prerequisites

In order to enroll in the beginning course of the quantitative sequence, Introduction to Empirical Methods for Policy Analysis (IEM), a student must have completed either formal undergraduate coursework with a grade of C or better in calculus and statistics or passed the LBJ validation exam(s).

If you have already taken those prerequisite courses as part of your undergraduate curriculum, they will show in your admissions transcript and your requirements will be fulfilled.  You can always ask the Admissions Coordinator.

If you have not taken the required course(s), you have several options between your admission date and fall orientation in August:

  • The LBJ School will offer Quantitative Foundation for Public Policy as a PA 325 topic. The course will be offered during the Summer I term. Successfully completing this course, taught by an LBJ School professor, will satisfy the both the calculus and statistics pre-requisites.
  • You may do self-study and take the validation exams during orientation in August. Check the information on the quantitative course handout for Camp LBJ as an indicator of the subjects needed for self-study.
  • You may take the course at a local college. You should bring transcripts or grade reports to the Admissions Coordinator before new student registration during orientation in August.  We are generally looking for a course that covers:
    1. Basic Probability concepts;
    2. Descriptive Statistics 
    3. Sampling and Estimation (e.g. Sample Sizes, Confidence Intervals, etc.)
    4. Intro to Inferential Statistics such as (hopefully at least one, and maybe two, of the following):
      • One-sample hypothesis tests (of means and/or proportions)
      • Intro to Design and Experiments and Analysis of Variance (ANOVA)
      • Intro to Simple Linear Regression

If you are unsure if the course you have taken or one that you plan to take will fulfill the requirement, please send the Admissions Coordinator a brief description of the course, preferably one provided by the institution offering the course. We will review the information and let you know if it will fulfill your requirement. 

Validation Exams

The first semester of the two-semester core quantitative sequence for a Masters in Public Affairs at the LBJ School, (i.e., IEM), is a fast-paced course which assumes all students begin the course with some exposure to, and experience in, statistical analysis and calculus concepts. In IEM, we typically cover more than one (undergraduate) semester of statistics in about one-half the semester. The other half of the IEM semester focuses on decision Analysis and optimization concepts. Both of these "management science" topics draw heavily on the mathematical concepts developed in a basic undergraduate math course. It is nearly impossible to succeed in IEM without some background in statistics, algebra, and pre-calculus. Some familiarity with differential calculus (i.e., derivatives) is also expected. The validation exams ensure that all students enrolling in IEM have the preparation needed to succeed in the course, if they haven't already prepared in these areas at the undergraduate level.

Summer Review

For new students who have already taken the prerequisite courses, but need to brush-up on their algebra, calculus, and/or statistics, a quantitative segment is offered as part of Camp LBJ. This segment is not a substitute for those who have never had an undergraduate math course.

Quantitative Course Sequence

Introduction to Empirical Methods for Policy Analysis (IEM)
This course introduces students to the concepts, tools and pitfalls of quantitative analysis in decision-making. Its primary objective is the development of analytic thinking and communication skills through quantitative models.

Analytic ability is an indispensable element of a successful public administrator or policy analyst. While most of the core courses in the MPAff curriculum are designed to help develop this ability, this course focuses on one particular aspect: the rational approach to decision-making with emphasis on mathematical and statistical methodology. The intent of this course is neither to advocate this approach in public policy nor to dwell on the mechanics of specific techniques. Rather, the emphasis is on the abilities to conceptualize and to communicate issues in precise, analytic terms. Such abilities will be of prime importance in public service careers. The quantitative techniques acquired in this course should be considered beneficial side-products.

The course is offered only in the fall semester. 

Advanced Empirical Methods for Policy Analysis (AEM)
AEM is a required flexible course that offers students opportunities to study quantitative applications in depth. A range of topics are offered, from which MPAff students must select at least one. Successful completion of the beginning methods course is a prerequisite. 

One section of the course is offered during the fall; four or five sections are normally offered during the spring semester. As a flexible core course, it may be taken more than once if topics differ.  Some course topics offered in the past several years include: management methods, program evaluation, econometrics, government economic statistics, and advanced regression.