Joseph Cook

Associate Professor of Public Policy & Governance
Ph.D., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 2007
M.S., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 2004
B.S., Cornell University, 1996
(206) 685-8927

Joseph Cook joined the Evans School faculty in 2007.  His research focuses on the intersection of environmental and development economics, particularly around issues of water supply and water resources.  His work is often grounded in non-market valuation and field research, having led ten household surveys in six countries.  

Cook's dissertation work examined the policy and economics of vaccines against cholera and typhoid, two water-borne diseases still prevalent in many countries.  Cook and his co-authors combined household demand data with epidemiological estimates of the cholera vaccine’s “herd immunity” to estimate the optimal Pigouvian subsidy, the first such estimate for vaccines.  More recent work has examined issues of access to water supply in rural Africa.  This includes a three-year panel study in Ethiopia on household time savings from improved water supply and a study in Kenya examining water source choices as well as the coping costs of poor supply.  His expertise also includes water resource economics issues in the United States.  This includes studies on the use of “social norms” in municipal water conservation, and non-monetary preferences of irrigators towards water markets (sales and leases of water rights).  He has a long-standing interest in Washington State water resource issues, and served on a team that was commissioned by the State Legislature to examine the benefits and costs of the multi-billion dollar Integrated Plan for the Yakima River Basin.  Methodologically, his training in non-market valuation, particularly stated preference techniques, has led to several publications on the role of giving respondents overnight to think about a valuation scenario.  Cook and colleagues find that this simple technique, though expensive in the field, lowers average willingness-to-pay by a substantial 30-40%.  

His research has been published in the Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Environmental and Resource Economics, Economic Inquiry, World Development, Water Resources Research and Environment and Development Economics. 

He is affiliated with the Benefit-Cost Analysis Center at the Evans School and the Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology (CSDE) at UW.  He served as a Resource Person for six years for the capacity-building program at the Center for Environmental Economics and Policy in Africa (CEEPA), based in Pretoria, South Africa.  He is also a Research Associate with the Kenya center of the Environment for Development initiative.  He has done consulting work for the Asian Development Bank (on Nepal’s Melamchi water supply project), the International Vaccine Institute, the Hopi Tribe, Global Water Challenge, and Orange County (NC).

Cook received a Ph.D. and MS in environmental management and policy from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 2007. He also received a BS in natural resources from Cornell University in 1996.  In between, Cook worked for an environmental consulting firm and as an RA at Resources for the Future, an environmental economics research institute in Washington, DC.

Areas of specialization 

Benefit-Cost Analysis
Discrete Choice Econometrics
Environmental Economics
International Development
Water and Sanitation Policy in Developing Countries
Water Resource Economics

Recent Publications 

(*paper co-authored with students and mentees)

Cook, J., P. Kimuyu, and D. Whittington. 2016. "The costs of coping with poor water supply in rural Kenya."  EfD Working Paper 15-08. Water Resources Research, forthcoming

Yoder, J., M. Brady and J. Cook. 2016. “Water markets and storage: Substitutes or complements for drought risk mitigation?” Water Economics and Policy, forthcoming.

*Brent, D., J. Cook, and S. Olsen.  2015. "Social comparisons, household water use and participation in utility conservation programs: Evidence from three randomized trials."  Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists 2(4): 597-627.  

*Donfouet, H.,  J. Cook and P.W. Jeanty.  2015. "The economic value of improved air quality in urban Africa: Results from Douala, Cameroon".  Environment and Development Economics 20(5):630-649.

Cook, J. and S. Rabotyagov. 2014.  “Assessing irrigators' preferences for water market lease attributes with a stated preferences approach”.  Water Resources and Economics 7: 19-38.

Cook, J.,  S. Chatterjee, D. Sur and D. Whittington. 2013.  “Measuring risk aversion among the urban poor in Kolkata, India”.  Applied Economics Letters, 20(1): 1-13.

Cook, J.,  B. Maskery, M. Jeuland and D. Whittington, 2012.  “The case for giving stated preference respondents ‘time to think’:  results from four countries.”  Environmental and Resource Economics, 51: 473-496.

Learn about Professor Cook's current research and access working papers, supplementary appendices and questionnaires.

Courses taught 

  • Environmental and Resource Economics (PBAF 594), Fall
  • Economics for Policy and Management II (PBAF 517), Winter
  • Water and Sanitation Policy in Economically-Developing Countries (PBAF 587), Spring (alternating)
  • Water Resource Economics (PBAF 547), Spring (alternating)
  • Applied Benefit-Cost Analysis (PBAF 518) 

Cook was awarded the student-nominated Teaching Excellence Award  in 2011 and the Dean's Excellence in Teaching Award in 2013.


Working Papers 

(*paper co-authored with students and mentees)

*Cook, J., Kimuyu, P., A. Blum, and J. Gatua.  "Estimating the value of travel time in rural Africa from a stated preference experiment on water source choices".  RFF-EfD Working Paper 15-09. Revising to resubmit.

Yoder, J., M. Brady and J. Cook. “Water markets and storage: Substitutes or complements for drought risk mitigation?”  Revisions resubmitted.

Cook, J. "Confusion in risk aversion experiments in low-income countries".  SSRN Working Paper