M.S. in Spatial Economics and Data Analysis

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Gain synergistic expertise in spatial economics, data analysis, and spatial sciences in this innovative interdisciplinary program for a competitive advantage in the spatial Big Data marketplace.

Work with globally recognized faculty from the Department of Economics and the Spatial Sciences Institute in the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences to identify business opportunities and address public policy challenges using location-based Big Data with insights from geographic information science (GIS), urban economics, and spatial econometrics.

In this rigorous quantitative curriculum, develop approaches for assembling and mining geo-coded data to reveal emerging spatial trends and to produce actionable results. For example, many cities suffer from extreme traffic congestion at certain locations at peak demand times. Using geo-coded road sensors, students can map the spatial patterns in traffic congestion by city, day of the week, and time of day. Building upon urban economics and econometrics principles and skills, students will learn to implement field experiments to test whether a given congestion charge (such as charging drivers $6 from 4 pm to 7 pm) would be effective at reducing traffic congestion. As spatial Big Data grows in availability and in significance, so, too are the market opportunities growing for professionals who can convert this kind of real-time spatial and economic analysis into recommendations in the areas of their choice.


The global geospatial industry is expected to grow at a 13.6% compound annual growth rate between 2017-2020 to reach US $440 billion in 2020. Professionals with spatial economics and data analysis capabilities can bring new insights in emerging business opportunities, environmental trends, urban crime, congestion trends, real estate valuation, technology diffusion, and countless other commercial and social applications around the world. Through internships, guest speakers, industry meet-ups, and other career development opportunities, build a professional network in Big Data industries and startups.


Eight required courses (32 units total)

Theories of the household and the firm; product and factor markets; perfect and imperfect competition; welfare criteria.
Application of econometric tools using standard econometric software packages for microcomputers; empirical applications to selected economic problems of estimation and inference.
Economic models will be used to understand the main facts observed in cities in the developed and developing world. Special attention will be paid to empirical hypothesis testing and developing an urban economics research agenda. Students will be exposed to new data sets being collected using Smart Phones and other novel technologies that have greatly expanded our ability to test relevant hypotheses.
The unique characteristics and importance of spatial information as they relate to the evolving science, technology, and applications of Geographic Information Systems.
Design, implementation, and interrogation of relational, object-oriented and other types of geospatial databases. Recommended Preparation: SSCI 581.
Design, implementation, and interrogation of relational, object-oriented and other types of geospatial databases. Recommended preparation: SSCI 581.
Role of crowdsourcing, volunteered geographic information, spatial data infrastructures, and web portals in helping with the collection, storage, curation, and distribution of geospatial data assets.


Graduates will:

  • develop an in-depth understanding of the fundamentals of spatial economics;
  • learn and apply spatial analysis and spatial modeling approaches to identify new business opportunities and new policy solutions addressing urban problems;
  • gain valuable research experience in analyzing spatial “Big Data”; and
  • develop professional development insights in this nascent field of spatial analysis.


  • a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited college or university in the United States, or the equivalent of a baccalaureate degree in another country;
  • a minimum cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0;
  • a Graduate Record Exam (GRE) with a score of 150 on the quantitative reasoning section; and
  • official and valid TOEFL/IELTS/PTE scores if English language proficiency is listed under the country-specific requirements as maintained by the USC Graduate Admissions office.

Students can be admitted into the program with various backgrounds. However, students are encouraged to have completed:

  • an introductory course in GIS and/or Remote Sensing (or proof of practical/field experience) and
  • an introductory course in Economics

Apply online now to start in the upcoming fall or spring semesters.


Experience a Spatial Economics or Spatial Sciences class. Ask us your questions.

Contact: Ken Watson, Spatial Sciences Institute Academic Programs Director:
(213) 740-8298 | watsonke@usc.edu