Justin Cook

School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts
University of California, Merced
Merced, CA 95343

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Institutional Affiliation: University of California, Merced

NBER Working Papers and Publications

June 2020Aggregate Effects from Public Works: Evidence from India
with Manisha Shah: w27395
This paper explores the aggregate economic effects from India's National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), which provides up to 100 days of labor to rural laborers at the mandated minimum wage. We examine the within-district change to night-time lights and banking deposits using the staggered program rollout for identification. We find consistent and robust evidence that NREGS increased aggregate economic output by 1-2% per capita measured by night-time lights. This effect, however, is not equal across districts. We observe no positive effect of the program in poorer districts, illuminating an important source of heterogeneity.
December 2018Multigenerational Effects of Early Life Health Shocks
with Jason M. Fletcher, Angela Forgues: w25377
A large literature has documented links between harmful early life exposures and later life health and socioeconomic deficits. These studies, however, are typically unable to examine the possibility that these shocks are transmitted to the next generation. Our study traces the impacts of in utero exposure to the 1918 influenza pandemic on the outcomes of the children and grandchildren of those affected using representative survey data from the US. We find evidence of multigenerational effects on educational, economic, and health outcomes.

Published: C. Justin Cook & Jason M. Fletcher & Angela Forgues, 2019. "Multigenerational Effects of Early-Life Health Shocks," Demography, vol 56(5), pages 1855-1874. citation courtesy of

June 2017High School Genetic Diversity and Later-life Student Outcomes: Micro-level Evidence from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study
with Jason M. Fletcher: w23520
A novel hypothesis posits that levels of genetic diversity in a population may partially explain variation in the development and success of countries. Our paper extends evidence on this novel question by subjecting the hypothesis to an alternative context that eliminates many alternative hypotheses by aggregating representative data to the high school level from a single state (Wisconsin) in 1957, when the population was composed nearly entirely of individuals of European ancestry. Using this sample of high school aggregations, we too find a strong effect of genetic diversity on socioeconomic outcomes. Additionally, we check an existing mechanism and propose a new potential mechanism of the results for innovation: personality traits associated with creativity and divergent thinking.

Published: C. Justin Cook & Jason M. Fletcher, 2018. "High-school genetic diversity and later-life student outcomes: micro-level evidence from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study," Journal of Economic Growth, vol 23(3), pages 307-339. citation courtesy of

January 2015Understanding Heterogeneity in the Effects of Birth Weight on Adult Cognition and Wages
with Jason M. Fletcher: w20895
A large economics literature has shown long term impacts of birth weight on adult outcomes, including IQ and earnings that are often robust to sibling or twin fixed effects. We examine potential mechanisms underlying these effects by incorporating findings from the genetics and neuroscience literatures. We use a sample of siblings combined with an “orchids and dandelions hypothesis”, where the IQ of genetic dandelions is not affected by in utero nutrition variation but genetic orchids thrive under advantageous conditions and wilt in poor conditions. Indeed, using variation in three candidate genes related to neuroplasticity (APOE, BDNF, and COMT), we find substantial heterogeneity in the associations between birth weight and adult outcomes, where part of the population (i.e., “dandelion...

Published: Justin Cook, C. & Fletcher, Jason M., 2015. "Understanding heterogeneity in the effects of birth weight on adult cognition and wages," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 107-116. citation courtesy of

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