Joseph J. Cordes

Professor of Economics, Public Policy and Public Administration, and International Affairs, Associate Director, Trachtenberg School, Co-Director: George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center
Address: Media and Public Affairs Building
805 21st St. NW
Washington, DC, 20052
Phone: 202-994-5826
Fax: 202-994-6792

Areas of Expertise

  • Budget and Tax Policy
  • Economic evaluation of public expenditures (benefit-cost analysis; quantitative impact analysis)
  • Economic evaluation of government regulation
  • Economics of the nonprofit sector
  • Economics of innovation (emphasis on tax policy)
  • Applied econometrics


Professor Joe Cordes joined the George Washington University faculty in 1975.  He is Associate Director of the Trachtenberg School and Professor of Economics, Public Policy and Public Administration, and International Affairs.

Dr. Cordes was a Brookings Economic Policy fellow in the Office of Tax Policy in the U.S. Department of the Treasury in 1980-81, and served as a senior economist on the Treasury's Tax Reform project in 1984. From 1989 to 1991 he was Deputy Assistant Director for Tax Analysis at the Congressional Budget Office. He was a Visiting Fellow at the Urban Institute in 1998-1999, and is currently an Associate Scholar in the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute. He has been a consultant to the Washington, DC Tax Revision Commission, the RAND Corporation, and numerous government agencies including the Congressional Budget Office, Internal Revenue Service Office of Research, the U.S. Treasury Department, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Research Council.


PhD, Economics, University of Wisconsin, Madison
MS, Economics, University of Wisconsin, Madison
BA, Economics, Stanford University


Selected Publications

Economics of Nonprofits

“Assessing the Nonprofit Property Tax Exemption: Should Nonprofit Entities be Taxed for Using Local Public Goods?” in Land Value Capture, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, May 2012.

“Re-Thinking the Deduction for Charitable Contributions: Evaluating the Effects of Deficit Reduction Proposals.”  National Tax Journal, (64) Dec. 2011, pp. 1001-24.

Nonprofits and Business (co-editor with C. Eugene Steuerle), Urban Institute Press 2009.

“Preferential Tax Treatment of Property Used for Social Purposes: Fiscal Impacts and Policy Implications.” (with W. Bowman and L. Metcalf). In Augustine, Bell, Brunori, and Youngman, eds. Erosion of the Property Tax Base. Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, 2009.

“Performance Assessment” (with K. Coventry). In Nonprofit Economics and Management: The State of Research, Dennis Young and Bruce Seaman, eds.  Edward Elgar Publishing, 2009.

“The Tax Treatment of Nonprofit Organizations: a Two-Edged Sword?” (with E. Brody), in E. Boris and C. E. Steuerle, eds., Nonprofits and Government: Collaboration and Conflict, 2nd edition, Urban Institute Press, 2006.

“Institutional Philanthropy,” (with Richard Sansing) in D. Young, ed. Financing Nonprofits: Putting Theory into Practice, Alta Mira Press, 2006.

“Dimensions of Nonprofit Entrepreneurship: An Exploratory Essay,” (with C. E. Steuerle, and E. Twombly), in D. Holtz-Eakin and H. Rosen, ed., Public Policy and the Economics of Entrepreneurship, MIT Press, 2004, pp. 115-151.

“The Partially Subsidized Muse: Estimating the Value and Incidence of Public Support Received by Nonprofit Arts Organizations,” in Amy Schwartz, ed. City Taxes, City Spending: Essays in Honor of Dick Netzer, Edward Elgar, 2004, pp. 198-240.

“What is the Property-Tax Exemption Worth?” (with M. Ganz and T. Pollak) in E. Brody, ed., Property Tax Exemption for Nonprofits: Mapping the Battlefield, Urban Institute Press, 2002, pp. 81-112.

“Nonprofit Human Service Providers in an Era of Privatization: Toward a Theory of Economic and Political Response (with J. Henig and E. Twombly), Policy Studies Review (now Review of Policy Research), Vol. 18, Issue 4, pp. 91-111, 2001.

"Washington D.C. Human Service Providers in an Era of Donor Choice," (with J. Henig and E. Twombly), Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, June 1999.

"Differential Taxation of the Nonprofit Sector and the Commercialization of Nonprofit Revenues," (with Burton A. Weisbrod), Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Winter 1998.

Tax Policy

“The Role of the Income Tax in State and Local Public Finances (with Jason Juffras), in  Handbook of State and Local Taxation, Robert Ebel and John Peterson, eds. Oxford University Press, Feb. 2012.

Tax and Expenditure Limitations and Local Public Finances” (with (B. Yuan,  M. Bell, and D. Brunori). In Augustine, Bell, Brunori, and Youngman, eds. Erosion of the Property Tax Base. Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, 2009.

“Tax and Expenditure Limits and Their Effects on Local Finances in Urban Areas,” (with M. Bell, D. Brunori, and B. Yuan) in Turner, Wial, and Wolman, eds. Urban and Regional Policy and Its Effects: Volume 1: Brookings Institution Press, 2008.

Encyclopedia of Taxation (co-editor with Robert Ebel and Jane Gravelle), Urban Institute Press, for the National Tax Association, (2nd Edition), 2005.

"Corrective Taxes, Fees, and Permit Trading," in L. Salamon, ed., Tools of Government: A Guide to the New Governance, Oxford University press, 2002, pp. 255-82.

"Business Franchise and Insurance Taxes in the DC Tax System," in R. Ebel, ed., Taxing Fairly and Simply, District of Columbia Tax Revision Commission, 1998.

The Theory and Practice of Tax Incidence Analysis," (with Harry Watson), in Fred Thompson, ed., Handbook of Public Finance, Marcel Dekker, 1997.

"Cutting Capital Gains Taxes," Journal of Economic Perspectives, Winter 1991 (with Gerald Auten).

"Raising Revenue by Taxing Activities with Social Costs," National Tax Journal, September 1990, (with Eric Nicholson and Frank Sammartino).

"Tax Shelter Activity: Lessons from Twenty Years of Evidence," National Tax Journal, Sept. 1985 (with Harvey Galper).

"Estimating the Tax Advantage of Debt Finance," Journal of Finance, March 1983, (with S.M. Sheffrin).

"Taxation and the Sectoral Allocation of Capital in the U.S.,"National Tax Journal, December 1981, (with S.M. Sheffrin).

Public Policy and Innovation

"Tax Incentives and R&D Spending: A Review of the Evidence,"Research Policy, 1989.

"The Impact of Tax Policy on the Creation of New Technical Knowledge: An Assessment of the Evidence," in Richard Cyert and David Mowrey eds., The Effects of Technological Change on Employment and Economic Growth, Ballinger Publishing Co., 1988.

"The Effects of Tax Reform on High Technology Firms," National Tax Journal, Sept. 1987 (with H. S. Watson and J. S. Hauger).

"The Impact of Recent Changes in Tax Policy on Innovation and R&D," (with J.R. Barth and G. Tassey), in Bozeman and Link, eds., Strategic Management of Industrial R&D: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Lexington Books (D.C. Heath), 1984.

"Tax Policies for Encouraging Innovation: A Survey, Technology in Society, No. 3, 1981. Also in Taxation, Technology, and the U.S. Economy, Landau and Hannay, eds., (New York: Pergamon Press), 1981.

Government Regulation

"The Benefits and Costs of Legal Restrictions on Personal Loan Markets" Journal of Law and Economics, Oct.1986, (with J. R. Barth and A. M. Yezer).

"An Analysis of Information Restrictions on the Lending Decisions of Financial Institutions," Economic Inquiry, September 1983 (with J.R. Barth and A.M. Yezer).

"Financial Institution Regulation, Redlining, and Mortgage Markets," The Regulation of Financial Institutions, Boston: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, 1980), (with J.R. Barth and A.M. Yezer).

Economics of Natural Hazards

"To the Water's Edge, And Beyond: Effects of Shore Protection Projects on Beachfront Real Estate," Journal of Real Estate Economics and Finance, (with A. Yezer and D. Gatzlaff), 2001, vol. 22, Issue 2-3, pp. 287-302.

"In Harms Way: Effects of Coastal Shore Protection Projects on Induced Economic Development," (with A. Yezer), Land Economics, March 1998.

Compensating Those Harmed by Policy Change

"Compensating Displaced Workers: What, How Much, How?" in Chinloy and Stromsdorfer, eds., Labor Market Adjustments in the Pacific Basin, Kluwer Nijhof, 1987.

"When Government Programs Create Inequities: A Guide to Compensation Policies," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 1985 (with B.A. Weisbrod).

"Alternate Rationales for Severance Pay Compensation Under Airline Deregulation," Public Choice, Spring 1983, (with R.S. Goldfarb).

"Government Behavior in Response to Compensation Requirements," Journal of Public Economics, February 1979, (with B.A. Weisbrod).

Public Goods and Public Expenditures

“Decreasing the “Bad” for Mixed Public Goods and Bads: The Case of Public Sculpture,” Eastern Economic Journal, 2010.

"School Choice in California: Who Chooses Private Schools?" (with R. Buddin, and S. Kirby), Journal of Urban Economics, Vol. 44, 1998, pp. 110-134.

"Reconciling Normative and Positive Theories of Government," American Economic Review, May 1998.

Democracy, Social Values and Public Policy (co-editor with Milton Carrow and Paul Churchill), Greenwood-Praeger, 1998.

“The Value of Public Art as Public Culture,” (with Robert Goldfarb), in Arjo Klamer, ed. The Value of Culture: On the Relationship Between Economics and Arts, Amsterdam University Press, 1996.

"The Relative Efficiency of Private and Public Transfers," Public Choice, 1986 (with R.S. Goldfarb and H.S. Watson).

Personal Interests

  • Reading (esp. History and Science Fiction)
  • Music (medieval, renaissance, baroque, classical, San Francisco 60’s, British folk rock)
  • Hiking
  • Classical languages


  • Fellow, National Academy of Public Administration
  • Institute Affiliated Scholar, Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy, Urban Institute
  • Affiliated Scholar, Urban-Brookings Joint Center on Tax Policy
  • Chair, Institutional Representatives, Association of Public Policy and Management
  • President, Society for Benefit Cost Analysis
  • George Washington University Award

Classes Taught

PPPA 6005  Public Budgeting, Revenue, and Expenditure Analysis
PPPA 6013  Econometrics for Policy Research I
PPPA 6014  Economics in Policy Analysis
PPPA 6015  Benefit-Cost Analysis
PPPA 6022  Econometrics in Policy Research II
PPPA 8105  Public Finance and Human Capital

Professor Joseph Cordes Quoted in Marketplace Report on GOP Tax Plan

February 26, 2014

Joseph Cordes,  Associate Director of the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration and Professor of Economics, Public Policy and Public Administration, and International Affairs, was quoted in a story by Dan Gorenstein during the February 25 Marketplace Morning Report on NPR.

The story, "GOP Eyes Big Reforms for Nation's Tax Code," highlighted U.S. Congressman Dave Camp's (R-Mich.) plan to overhaul the nation’s tax code.

Professor Cordes called Congressman Camp's plan a a serious proposal and potentially the start of something.