Professor Profile: Miguel Gouveia

Most of us come to University listen to our professors teach an interesting or a somewhat less interesting topic. However, most of us do not exactly know what our professors are doing. The goal of this Professor Profile is to show a different side of our professors. By asking four questions, we hope to provide a short overview of the person and his research. Our Seventh Professor Profile is with Professor Miguel Gouveia. Miguel Gouveia is an economics Católica-Lisbon Professor, holding a PhD from the University of Rochester. His research cover the areas of Public Economics, Income Distribution and Social Policy, and Health Economics. We want to start this interview thanking our Professor Miguel Gouveia for his spontaneous availability for this interview. Could you shortly introduce yourself? I was young in 1974 but the events during the democratic revolution in Portugal really called my attention to politics. It did not take long for me to realize that many of the relevant choices we had to make as a country had an important economic component. Eventually I decided to study Economics and I was lucky to have made that choice. Today I am an Economist trained in Public Economics and with an interest in Public Policy in general and Social Policy and Health Policy in particular. What does economics mean to you? I am very curious when it comes to understanding how societies function. For me Economics is the main source of answers to questions such as how can we improve society’s wellbeing, how can we make people experience a life with some abundance, fairness and freedom. The level of rigor in Economics allows us to confront these questions and not get lost on our way to finding answers. Sometimes we find good answers to small questions, sometimes we find partial answers to big questions, but more often than not, if one works hard on a problem, some progress usually ends up being made. Could you simply describe your research? In the past I have done some theoretical work on taxation, on how to balance incentives and fairness, and on modeling political equilibria when people vote over taxes or over public services.

Nowadays most of my work is empirical, i.e. I use data to estimate relationships and test explanations. What is, in your opinion, your most interesting finding? Looking at the international Economics literature, I was cited mostly because of two pieces of work: one on a technique for summarizing income taxes and the other on a model of the political equilibrium we get when people vote over public services but there is also private supply, as it is the case in health care or education.

Nowadays I am excited about two findings I am working on jointly with a colleague, Pedro Raposo. The first concerns the relationship between aging, health and the effects on health care costs. The second is an explanation of why relative poverty rates differ so much across European countries (and no, the explanation is not GDP per capita…).

I guess that for most of us, the most interesting findings are always the last ones we come up with and I am not an exception to this rule.

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