Public Policy Research Scholars (PPRS) is a selective three-year certificate program intended for undergraduates with a background in economics who want to explore the relationship between U.S. public policy on the domestic economy. Students must apply for admission at the end of their freshman year and matriculate into the program at the start of their sophomore year. 

The program is administered through the Wharton Public Policy Initiative; our goal each year is to admit just 15 rising sophomores into the program. Students from all four of Penn’s undergraduate schools are eligible to apply, and the program can be pursued alongside any major. Students that complete the PPRS program will have the designation “Public Policy Research Scholar” noted as an honor on their transcripts and will receive a certificate upon graduation.

The only academic prerequisite for admission is two semesters of Economics. Students are expected to earn credit (or receive waivers) for ECON 001 and 002, or ECON 010 and BEPP 250, prior to entering the program at the start of their sophomore year. Students who will not have completed the two semesters of Economics by the start of their sophomore year must provide an explanation within their personal statement.

You can learn more about the program by browsing the other pages listed in the side navigation. The PPRS application, including all application instructions, is also available for your review.


In Their Own Words

  • Megha Agarwal

    What unique opportunities has the Public Policy Research Scholars program afforded you?

    “When I made the decision to spend a summer in Washington, D.C., I was apprehensive. An internship at the White House and work in the public sector did not fit into my plan of entering the corporate world. As it turns out, stepping out of my self-imposed comfort zone was one of the best decisions I could have made.”
  • Stephanie Aliaga

    How did your interest in public policy develop?

    I first became interested in the intersection of policy and finance when I worked for a tax accounting firm in high school and discovered the impact that government tax policies had on client’s everyday lives. During my freshman year at Penn, I became involved with the student association to the Wharton Public Policy Initiative where I devoted articles to researching, analyzing, and providing solutions to fiscal and monetary policy issues. My interest in policy grew even more this past summer when I worked at the Department of Commerce and saw how trade policy can increase GDP, augment job growth, and fight poverty worldwide.
    I view every policy issue as multi-dimensional—there are many externalities to every policy decision, as there are many stakeholders to every corporate decision—and I have strived to consolidate various interests, values, and stakes of different parties to advocate for solutions that serve to increase the social and economic utility amongst all participating parties.
    I aspire to utilize my Wharton education to become a pioneer for economic reform, create policies that would maximize employment, battle inflation, and manage long-term growth. While my professional life will likely not begin in government, I am hopeful that I will later serve my country in an advisory role on economic policy to make a positive impact on America and the world.
  • Lauren Anders, PPRS, 2019

    What inspired you to pursue PPRS?

    There are two reasons why I pursued PPRS: personal interest and societal impact. I first became interested in public policy as a delegate to the Missouri Youth in Government Conference for five years and the Conference on National Affairs for three years. At these conferences, I enjoyed writing and debating public policy proposals with 600 delegates of varying political ideologies. I was eager to work with my peers to find creative solutions to the varying problems facing our society. Beyond pure interest, I believe it is important to have a firm understanding of public policy due to its large societal impact. Every policy enacted by our government affects both individuals and corporations. I hope to utilize my Wharton education and my knowledge of public policy to make and advocate for policy decisions that provide the highest utility to all societal actors.
  • What inspired you to apply to be a Public Policy Research Scholar?

    “This past summer, I took a hands-on approach to learning about policy as a legislative intern for Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL). One of the long-term projects I worked on centered on maternal mortality which, despite a noted decline in every other developed nation in the world, is on the rise here in the United States. Despite the Centers for Disease Control classifying sixty percent of these deaths as preventable, national policy has yet to be implemented. While looking at the legislation currently proposed, I noticed that solutions currently working on the ground were largely unaccounted for. In PPRS, I hope to learn about reframing policy to assess its impact in terms of its lowest common denominator: the individual. The PPRS program gives me the space to quantitatively analyze how policies can target society’s most pressing problems without losing sight of who they are designed to help.”
  • What inspired you to apply to be a Public Policy Research Scholar?

    “In addition to structuring my coursework at Penn, the PPRS community is a petri dish for innovative thought. After reading the biographies of current PPRS students, I felt assured in my decision to apply to the program. Their breadth and depth of interests mirrors the diversity I was pleased to encounter at Penn. As public policy is a collaborative effort, I hope to make use of every opportunity to learn from them.”
  • Tanner Bowen

    What attracted you to the Public Policy Research Scholars program?

    “At Wharton, I am considering doing concentrations in Business Economics & Public Policy and Legal Studies & Business Ethics. I thought these opportunities were great in themselves, but once I found out about the PPRS program, I knew that this would be an excellent learning opportunity to take my public policy interests to the next level.”
  • What inspired you to apply for to be a Public Policy Research Scholar?

    Throughout high school and my first year here at Penn, I was really involved with social justice work and activism. As I began to invest more and more time into the movement, I realized that in the people I was surrounding myself with, there was no understanding of compromise or baby steps. I also learned change isn’t effected overnight. As I reevaluated my own understanding of the world, I realized that if I really wanted to make a difference, I needed to gain greater knowledge of how policy really works.
  • What interests you about public policy?

    “My passion for public policy began in high school, as I studied and debated policy in Speech and Debate and Youth in Government. I gained a greater appreciation for how everything from international conflict to domestic tax changes influenced the world around me. I carried that appreciation with me to Wharton and the Public Policy Initiative Student Group where I could continue learning more about questions which interested me. By engaging with important issues of economic reform, foreign affairs, and financial governance, I learned the role policy making can have in doing good. I was drawn to the meticulous nature of public policy research. I fell in love with the ability to utilize analytical skills, pragmatic thinking, and logical problem solving to reach a conclusion that could improve someone’s quality of life.”
  • Christian Butts, PPRS, 2018

    What do you want to do in the future?

    “While my Wharton studies are geared towards understanding how to encourage growth among developing nations, the PPRS program can allow me to work alongside scholars in the fields of international development and trade law that can make my time at Penn even more fruitful and allow me to view my path with more context.”
  • John Casey

    What inspired you to apply to be a Public Policy Research Scholar?

    “After spending a whole year at Wharton, I have found that there are distinct segments of business students. There are the future entrepreneurs: the kids who want to start their businesses. There are the Wolves of Wall Street: kids who will go straight to bulge bracket banks and hedge funds. And then there is a third segment: the public policy kids. By virtue of being in the Public Policy Initiative Student Group, Penn Democrats, and the Penn Political Review, I have gotten to know many of my Public Policy-interested peers. At Penn, the public policy students are the ones who know what is going on in the world, and they are the ones I talk to when I want to share my opinion or hear opposing ones. By being a part of the Public Policy Research Scholars, I’m with an entire group of public policy nerds, having to transverse the same rigorous PPRS curriculum. That is pretty appealing.”
  • What interests you about public policy?

    “I have always had an extremely strong interest in public policy and international affairs. Looking back upon my experiences throughout high school, I realize my motivation for each of my activities stems from an insatiable desire to learn and better understand the world around me, oftentimes through the context of public policy, economics, and history.”
  • Jordan Dewar, PPRS, 2019

    What inspired you to apply to be a Public Policy Research Scholar

    “One of the major reasons I applied to Penn was the multidisciplinary potential of the Penn curriculum. Ever since I was young, I’ve had a passion for government and politics, but all the majors in government, international relations, or political science tended to oversimplify the economic aspect of policymaking. PPRS combines the areas of policymaking and quantitative analysis in a way that will allow me to better understand the intersection of economics and governmental affairs.”
  • Sarina Divan

    What interests you about public policy?

    “My initial interest in public policy was sparked by my experience with the Girl Up campaign of the United Nations Foundation. As a Teen Advisor for this girls’ empowerment campaign, I learned about the role of American foreign policy and initiatives on the lives of adolescent girls around the world. Through Girl Up, I had my first real exposure to policymaking as I lobbied on Capitol Hill for bills that would improve girls’ access to education globally. Building upon my passion for advocacy, I became an intern in the office of the Mayor of Buffalo, New York. Through the series of community outreach events I planned for the Mayor, I saw firsthand how influential local government was in the daily lives of Buffalo residents. My interests ranging from international development to local economic policy, I quickly realized that I wanted to spend the rest of my academic career studying public policy.”
  • What do you hope to gain from the PPRS experience?

    “Coming from a rural, underserved public high school in North Carolina, I didn’t have access to many courses, programs, or educational opportunities during my K-12 education. Now that I’m at Penn, I strive to take advantage of each opportunity available to me. During my time with PPRS, I hope to gain an opportunity to critically examine and discuss policy in a smaller group setting (as opposed to lectures), a new circle of peers that can push and challenge me, and a chance to navigate areas of policy where I feel I can personally make a difference. The PPRS program will permit me the opportunity to take personal initiative in researching and examining policy, ultimately paving the way for me to take action in advocating for beneficial policy changes.”
  • portraits of the Public Policy Research Scholars 2017

    What do you hope to gain from the PPRS experience?

    “Through the Public Policy Research Scholars program, I hope to gain an in-depth knowledge of the policy-making process and the economic analysis of public policy while I pursue my systems engineering major. I see strong complementarity between my engineering education and the PPRS healthcare policy education. Education toward my systems engineering degree will equip me with advanced quantitative and analytical skills that are highly pertinent to the analysis of healthcare, such as when considering large patient- or hospital-level datasets. At the same time, the policy education through the PPRS program will provide me with an essential basis for effective research; only with deep institutional knowledge of the U.S. healthcare system and understanding of the economics of healthcare delivery would I be able to conduct comprehensive research on healthcare policy. In addition to the curriculum itself, PPRS would also allow me to gain the hands-on skills needed to be successful in public policy research, such as experience through a D.C. internship and specialized practical training in statistical research software. After I graduate from the program, I hope to be at an organization such as the National Institute of Health or Mathematica Policy Research, working as a healthcare policy analyst.”


  • <h3>The Penn World Table</h3><p> The Penn World Table provides purchasing power parity and national income accounts converted to international prices for 189 countries/territories for some or all of the years 1950-2010.</p><p><a href="" target="_blank">Quick link.</a> </p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>MapStats</h3><p> A feature of FedStats, MapStats allows users to search for <strong>state, county, city, congressional district, or Federal judicial district data</strong> (demographic, economic, and geographic).</p><p> Quick link: <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Federal Aviation Administration: Accident & Incident Data</h3><p><img width="100" height="100" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image80 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg 3x" data-max-w="550" data-max-h="550"/>The NTSB issues an accident report following each investigation. These reports are available online for reports issued since 1996, with older reports coming online soon. The reports listing is sortable by the event date, report date, city, and state.</p><p> Quick link: <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>HUD State of the Cities Data Systems</h3><p><strong><img width="200" height="200" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image482 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg 3x" data-max-w="612" data-max-h="613"/>The SOCDS provides data for individual Metropolitan Areas, Central Cities, and Suburbs.</strong> It is a portal for non-national data made available through a number of outside institutions (e.g. Census, BLS, FBI and others).</p><p> Quick link: <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>NOAA National Climatic Data Center</h3><p><img width="200" height="198" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image483 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg 3x" data-max-w="954" data-max-h="945"/>NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) is responsible for preserving, monitoring, assessing, and providing public access to the Nation’s treasure of <strong>climate and historical weather data and information</strong>.</p><p> Quick link to home page: <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p><p> Quick link to NCDC’s climate and weather datasets, products, and various web pages and resources: <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p><p> Quick link to Text & Map Search: <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED®)</h3><p><strong><img width="180" height="79" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/79/481_fred-logo.rev.1407788243.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image481 lw_align_right" data-max-w="222" data-max-h="97"/>An online database consisting of more than 72,000 economic data time series from 54 national, international, public, and private sources.</strong> FRED®, created and maintained by Research Department at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, goes far beyond simply providing data: It combines data with a powerful mix of tools that help the user understand, interact with, display, and disseminate the data.</p><p> Quick link to data page: <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Internal Revenue Service: Tax Statistics</h3><p><img width="155" height="200" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/155/height/200/486_irs_logo.rev.1407789424.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image486 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/155/height/200/486_irs_logo.rev.1407789424.jpg 2x" data-max-w="463" data-max-h="596"/>Find statistics on business tax, individual tax, charitable and exempt organizations, IRS operations and budget, and income (SOI), as well as statistics by form, products, publications, papers, and other IRS data.</p><p> Quick link to <strong>Tax Statistics, where you will find a wide range of tables, articles, and data</strong> that describe and measure elements of the U.S. tax system: <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>National Center for Education Statistics</h3><p><strong><img width="400" height="80" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/400/height/80/479_nces.rev.1407787656.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image479 lw_align_right" data-max-w="400" data-max-h="80"/>The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education in the U.S. and other nations.</strong> NCES is located within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences. NCES has an extensive Statistical Standards Program that consults and advises on methodological and statistical aspects involved in the design, collection, and analysis of data collections in the Center. To learn more about the NCES, <a href="" target="_blank">click here</a>.</p><p> Quick link to NCES Data Tools: <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p><p> Quick link to Quick Tables and Figures: <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p><p> Quick link to NCES Fast Facts (Note: The primary purpose of the Fast Facts website is to provide users with concise information on a range of educational issues, from early childhood to adult learning.): <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Congressional Budget Office</h3><p><img width="180" height="180" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/180/380_cbo-logo.rev.1406822035.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image380 lw_align_right" data-max-w="180" data-max-h="180"/>Since its founding in 1974, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has produced independent analyses of budgetary and economic issues to support the Congressional budget process.</p><p> The agency is strictly nonpartisan and conducts objective, impartial analysis, which is evident in each of the dozens of reports and hundreds of cost estimates that its economists and policy analysts produce each year. CBO does not make policy recommendations, and each report and cost estimate discloses the agency’s assumptions and methodologies. <strong>CBO provides budgetary and economic information in a variety of ways and at various points in the legislative process.</strong> Products include baseline budget projections and economic forecasts, analysis of the President’s budget, cost estimates, analysis of federal mandates, working papers, and more.</p><p> Quick link to Products page: <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p><p> Quick link to Topics: <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>The World Bank Data (U.S.)</h3><p><img width="130" height="118" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image484 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg 3x" data-max-w="1406" data-max-h="1275"/>The <strong>World Bank</strong> provides World Development Indicators, Surveys, and data on Finances and Climate Change.</p><p> Quick link: <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>USDA Nutrition Assistance Data</h3><p><img width="180" height="124" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image485 lw_align_right" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg 3x" data-max-w="1233" data-max-h="850"/>Data and research regarding the following <strong>USDA Nutrition Assistance</strong> programs are available through this site:</p><ul><li>Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) </li><li>Food Distribution Programs </li><li>School Meals </li><li>Women, Infants and Children </li></ul><p> Quick link: <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>National Bureau of Economic Research (Public Use Data Archive)</h3><p><img width="180" height="43" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/43/478_nber.rev.1407530465.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image478 lw_align_right" data-max-w="329" data-max-h="79"/>Founded in 1920, the <strong>National Bureau of Economic Research</strong> is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of how the economy works. The NBER is committed to undertaking and disseminating unbiased economic research among public policymakers, business professionals, and the academic community.</p><p> Quick Link to <strong>Public Use Data Archive</strong>: <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>