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Cathleen Zick

Cathleen D. Zick, Ph.D. is a consumer economist and professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Studies. Her research and teaching focus on questions of how public policies shape the choices families make regarding the allocation of scarce time and money resources. During the 30 years she has been at the University of Utah, she has had the privilege of teaching courses that range from introductory family economics to advanced classes on consumers and health, the economics of aging, family policy, and policy/program evaluation. Her research is informed by economic theory. It is also enriched immensely by cross-disciplinary collaborations with colleagues who provide her with new insights into the complexities of consumer and family behavior. Dr. Zick’s scholarship includes a translational component that is intended to make her writings accessible to undergraduates interested in questions related to consumer/family well-being and to officials who want to craft effective public policies.

Two issues that are of great concern to policymakers are the focus of Dr. Zick’s current scholarship. In the first area, she and her colleagues are investigating how socioeconomic factors and neighborhood context affect individual choices regarding physical (in)activity and eating patterns, and in turn, how these choices relate to America’s growing obesity epidemic. This work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the USDA’s Economic Research Service. In Dr. Zick’s second area of research, she and her collaborators are working to expand policymakers’ understanding of why most Americans are financially ill-prepared for retirement. In a world where consumers are increasingly responsible for all aspects of retirement planning, they are assessing how socioeconomic and health factors affect important, intermediate retirement planning activities such as estimating retirement needs and opening a supplemental retirement savings account. This work has been funded by the National Institute on Aging.

Dr. Zick earned her B.S. degree at the University of California, Davis and her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees at Cornell University. She joined the faculty of Family and Consumer Studies in 1982 and she was chair of the department from 1997-2005. From 2005-2012, she was the first-ever director of the University of Utah’s Masters of Public Policy program. In 1992, she won the College of Social and Behavioral Science (CSBS) Superior Teaching Award and in 2003 she won the CSBS Superior Research Award. In 1994-5, she was the Lowell Bennion Public Service Professor. She has co-authored two books and over 90 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters. Dr. Zick currently serves on the editorial board of three academic journals and she has served on the board of directors of the American Council on Consumer Interests (ACCI). Most recently, she was named a Distinguished Fellow of ACCI in 2012.

Cathleen and her spouse are the parents of one son. Both her spouse and son provide vital support for her professional activities. But even more importantly, they (along with the family dog) are great listeners, wonderful hiking companions, and the source of much joy and laughter in her life.  

Last Updated: 7/13/19