John F. Cogan

Leonard and Shirley Ely Senior Fellow
Awards and Honors:

John F. Cogan is the Leonard and Shirley Ely Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and a faculty member in the Public Policy Program at Stanford University.

John Cogan’s research is focused on U.S. budget and fiscal policy, federal entitlement programs, and health care.  He has published widely in professional journals in both economics and political science.  His latest book, The High Cost of Good Intentions (2017) is the recipient of the 2018 Hayek Prize.  The book traces the history of U.S. federal entitlement programs from the Revolutionary War to modern times.  His previous books include Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Five Steps to a Better Health Care System, coauthored with Glenn Hubbard and Daniel Kessler, and The Budget Puzzle, (with Timothy Muris and Allen Schick).

At Stanford, he has served on faculty advisory boards for the Stanford-in-Washington campus and the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. He is a recipient of the Stanford-in-Government's Distinguished Service Award.

Cogan has devoted a considerable part of his career to public service. He served under President Ronald Reagan as assistant secretary for policy in the U.S. Department of Labor from 1981 to 1983, as associate director in the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) from 1983 to 1985, and as Deputy (OMB) Director in 1988-89.  His responsibilities included developing and reviewing Reagan Administration policies in the areas of health care, Social Security, disability, welfare, and employment training.

Cogan has served on numerous congressional, presidential, and California state advisory commissions. At the federal level, he has served on President George W. Bush's Commission to Strengthen Social Security, the U.S. Bipartisan Commission on Health Care (the Pepper Commission), the Social Security Notch Commission, and the National Academy of Sciences' Panel on Poverty and Family Assistance. He has also served on the California State Commission on the 21st Century Economy and the California Public Employee Post-Employment Benefits Commission.  

Cogan is a member of the Board of Directors of Gilead Sciences where he is the Lead Independent Director and a member of the board of trustees of the Charles Schwab Family of Funds where he is Chairman of the Governance Committee.

Cogan received his A.B. in 1969 and his Ph.D. in 1976 from the University of California at Los Angeles, both in economics.  He received his M.A. in Economics from California State University at Long Beach in 1970.  He was an associate economist at the RAND Corporation from 1975 to 1980. In 1979, Cogan was appointed a national fellow at the Hoover Institution; in 1980 he was appointed a senior research fellow; and in 1984 he became a senior fellow.

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Recent Commentary

Policy InsightsFeatured

Social Safety Nets

by John F. Cogan, Edward Paul Lazear, Lee Ohanian, Daniel Heilvia PolicyEd
Thursday, July 11, 2019

The federal government spends trillions of dollars each year on social safety net programs that take many different forms. Some provide cash assistance, and others provide health care, food, or housing. With so much money being spent on so many programs, it can be difficult to comprehend the extent of the US social safety net, its effectiveness, and its shortcomings. 

Policy InsightsFeatured

The US Debt—Causes And Consequences

featuring John B. Taylor, Michael J. Boskin, John F. Cogan, John H. Cochrane , Daniel Heilvia PolicyEd
Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The federal government is borrowing at unprecedented rates. Spending regularly exceeds revenue, and this shortfall is predicted to grow dramatically in the near future. The result is a large and growing federal debt that threatens future Americans’ prosperity and security. What are the consequences of this higher federal debt and what can we do about it?


Hoover Panelists Address Prosperity In The Last 100 Years

featuring George P. Shultz, Terry Anderson, John F. Cogan, Lee Ohanian, Peter M. Robinson, Hoover Institutionvia Stanford Daily
Thursday, April 18, 2019

“If students here could take anything away from this right now — you have no idea how much us old guys up here suffered to make your lives better,” Peter M. Robinson said, as the audience broke into laughter. Robinson’s lighthearted sentiment echoed the more serious issues of standards of living and sustained financial prosperity addressed in the Hoover Institution’s panel discussion on Thursday, the second in a three-part centennial speaker series, A Century of Ideas for a Free Society.

In the News

Book Review For “The High Cost Of Good Intentions”

featuring John F. Coganvia Springer Link
Thursday, April 4, 2019

John Cogan, a fellow at the Hoover Institution and faculty member at Stanford University’s Public Policy Program, has written “The High Cost of Good Intentions,” which provides a detailed history of U.S. entitlement programs. The book’s coverage spans the beginnings of U.S. entitlements with the pension benefits provided to Revolutionary War veterans through the present, with the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid benefits expansion. It will surely be of interest to academics, policymakers, and the members of the public with concern for the consequences of entitlements in the United States.


An Interview With John F. Cogan, Author Of The High Cost Of Good Intentions

interview with John F. Coganvia The Politic
Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Hoover Institution fellow John Cogan discusses entitlements, universal basic income, and his award winning book The High Cost of Good Intentions: A History of U.S. Federal Entitlement Programs.


New Hoover Institution Digital Products Highlight Fiscal Challenges And The Need To Fix America’s Chronic Debt Problem

featuring John F. Cogan, John Raisian, Hoover Institutionvia AP News
Thursday, January 31, 2019

Scholars at the Hoover Institution have created a new web platform, America Off Balance, that hosts digital products highlighting the looming fiscal disaster that the country will face—unless tough choices are made, and made soon.

Policy InsightsFeatured

Policy Insights: Health Insurance

by Scott W. Atlas, Michael J. Boskin, Tom Church, John H. Cochrane , John F. Cogan, Daniel Heil, Daniel P. Kessler, John B. Taylorvia PolicyEd
Thursday, December 20, 2018

Health insurance helps many Americans purchase health care. So why is it so expensive, and how can we make it more affordable?

Policy BriefsFeatured

John Cogan Tells Us How To Think About Entitlements

by John F. Coganvia PolicyEd
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Entitlement programs fulfill the normal human desire to help those who cannot help themselves. But we must always remember that they also impose a penalty on work, because benefits have to be phased out as income rises. It is important to balance benefits granted and costs imposed.

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Entitlements: What We Must Do

by John F. Coganvia Hoover Digest
Monday, October 29, 2018

For some seven decades, entitlement programs have grown almost continuously—and yet, even now, it may not be too late to bring them under control. Adapted from Hoover fellow John F. Cogan’s Hayek Prize lecture.

Perspectives on PolicyFeatured

The High Cost Of Good Intentions

by John F. Coganvia PolicyEd
Monday, September 24, 2018

Entitlements grow over time because of a force called “the equally worthy claim,” where eligibility for benefits continually expands until programs no longer resemble their initial, honorable intentions. Over time, entitlements programs have grown into a costly and complex system. Reforms should focus on preserving the programs’ original intentions and putting them back on a sustainable fiscal path.