PhD in Human Development and Social Policy

Contact Us

The Graduate Program in Human Development and Social Policy

School of Education and Social Policy

2120 Campus Drive
Evanston, IL 60208
Northwestern University

Phone: 847/491-4329

Email: sesp-hdsp@northwestern.edu

PhD in Human Development and Social Policy

PhD in Human Development and Social Policy

The Human Development and Social Policy (HDSP) doctoral program is grounded in the study of relations between public policy and human development. Faculty and students conduct research on how public policy affects human development and well-being, how research on human development across the life span informs policy, and how people affect policy.

In HDSP, the study of human development covers child, adolescent and adult development, focusing on key transitions across the life span as well as intergenerational issues. In HDSP, policy research spans the policy process examining how policies are developed, how they change incentives and infrastructures, and how they interact with contextual factors to influence behavior as well as how people affect policy through public opinion, civic engagement, political participation, policy implementation and research.

HDSP research questions are too big for any one discipline — they require insights from anthropology, economics, political science, psychology and sociology. So the HDSP approach to graduate education is designed to provide students with substantive knowledge of a discipline coupled with a rich appreciation for other disciplines. We aim to produce scholars who are boundary-spanners — who can contribute to the literatures in a chosen discipline while enriching that work with insights from other disciplines. We value multidisciplinary research.


HDSP Faculty

HDSP faculty practice what they preach: We are a team of boundary-spanners ourselves. Our research programs frequently combine constructs from multiple disciplines to frame research questions at the intersection of human development and public policy. We employ multiple research methods, combining various quantitative and qualitative approaches to create cutting-edge social science research designs. Our research spans several institutional sectors including criminal justice, education, family, health and housing.

Core HDSP research themes include the following:

  • Promoting positive developmental trajectories and transitions across the life course
  • Understanding and reducing economic, education and health inequalities
  • Examining the politics, development and implementation of social policy

HDSP Students

HDSP students are prepared through course work, participation in a vibrant community of scholars and active engagement in faculty research to conduct multidisciplinary research that combines cutting-edge empirical research methodologies. Students learn to span disciplinary and methodological boundaries by conducting research that crosses traditional academic disciplines and combines different research approaches. Students learn how to design research that links policy and development.


Micere Keels Lindsay Till Hoyt Shadd Maruna

Meet Our HDSP Alumni


Like the alumni you meet here, graduates of the Human Development and Social Policy program assume teaching and research positions in higher education or policy analyst roles in government, government agencies or independent research organizations.

Meet Our HDSP Alumni

HDSP News

Schanzenbach To Lead Institute for Policy Research

Prominent economist Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach was named director of Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research (IPR). She succeeds David Figlio, who left the position to assume his new role as dean of the School of Education and Social Policy.

Schools' Ability to Close Achievement Gap Varies Dramatically

Researchers and policymakers alike often compare the success of students between school districts, but a new Brookings report by David Figlio, and Krzysztof Karbownik indicates that school quality can vary greatly between schools in the same district.

Academic Motivation Suffers When Economic Mobility Seems Out of Reach

Mesmin Destin, Ryan Svoboda co-author new research suggesting that students’ beliefs about the possibility of social mobility have significant consequences

Contact Us

The Graduate Program in Human Development and Social Policy

School of Education and Social Policy

2120 Campus Drive
Evanston, IL 60208
Northwestern University

Phone: 847/491-4329

Email: sesp-hdsp@northwestern.edu