52: Monica Rodriguez Guevara



Program and Year of Study

PhD, 4th year 

Previous degrees and colleges

MSc Economics, The London School of Economics and Political Science (UK)

BA Economics, Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (Mexico)

Where did you grow up?

Cholula, Mexico, the oldest city continuously inhabited in America

Where do you live now?

Davis, CA

What's your favorite spot in Davis?

Northstar Park

How do you relax?

I like dancing salsa and other Latin music and trying new recipes. Whenever I get particularly stressed, I have found that going for a run is the most helpful activity for me to be back on track.

What was the last book you read for pleasure?

Tear This Heart Out by Ángeles Mastretta. Settled in the post-Revolutionary Mexico, it’s a novel about a young woman that fights for her independence after having married a general when she was 15. Lately, I have become fond of novels and essays that describe familiar places in other times. 

What TV show are you currently binge-watching?

I’m waiting for the release of third season of Chicas del Cable, a Netflix drama series that shows the story of young women and their hardships (ok, mostly love stories) in the late 1920s in Madrid.  

Research interests

Broadly, public economics (when and why does the government intervene?) and labor economics (in particular, income inequality)

Dissertation title or topic

I think the title would be decided some months before submitting it, but probably will take the form of “Essays in…

Please share a surprising or noteworthy fact or finding from your research

Data from US pre-financial crisis shows that, on average, an increase on average personal income taxes motivated by long-term debt and long-run economic growth concerns is related to a decrease in consumption and income inequality. This decrease in inequality appears to be due to an overall decrease in available income across quantiles, rather than due to progressive redistribution.

Which professor or class inspired you to pursue graduate studies?

My history of economic thought professor. At the time, I was trying to make sense of the public discussion on the benefits of abortion legalization and my own moral assessment on the issue. I don’t remember now which authors we were reviewing (perhaps from the utilitarian school?), but I remember making the point of understanding what economic theory would say for those controversial topics and remember warmly reading as a comment: “Keep asking questions!” And so, I am trying.

Which scholarly text do you wish you had written? Why?

Perhaps this is a cultural issue, but for me this question is rather presumptuous (I cannot imagine myself having written some of the most influential academic papers in economics). I will answer, instead, a related question. One of my favorite economics books is Misbehaving by Richard Thaler. He tells, quite entertainingly, of his endeavors in taking a different standing from mainstream economics. I found it to be a nice summary of an economist that succeeded in his own way, by bringing to the table simple yet puzzling ideas. I chose a book for general audience on purpose because I think an important part of the academic world is to make knowledge accessible to all. 

What's the best thing about being a grad student?

In academic terms, I think the opportunity (in time and monetary terms) to approach economics as a science—to ask, what the principles (axioms, assumptions) does it rely on? What do we know and what we do not yet understand? Why? And finally, learning how to formulate good questions. In personal terms, the opportunity to learn about yourself: what do I stand for, what do I value, what do I reject and what do I aspire to. Graduate school provides a set of personal challenges that I don’t imagine I would have faced otherwise. 

What's the worst?

Being tempted to take academic success as a synonym of success. And grading.

If you weren't a grad student, what would you be doing?

I would probably be working for the federal government in Mexico.

Finally, please ask yourself a question

If you could improve the grad life experience for your classmates, what would you do?

I think organizing a sort of roundtable where cohort students answer “What would you have liked to know when you were starting year t-1?” would be pretty useful. 

—June 2018


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