2024 graduates of the CBFE PhD program with their faculty advisors

A Consumer Behavior & Family Economics graduate student gestures toward her poster as she explains her research to several onlooking prospective students.

Consumer Behavior & Family Economics

Prospective Student Information Sessions

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Join program faculty and current students to learn more about the Department of Consumer Science, the CBFE PhD program, and how we might further your academic and professional goals. If you have any questions or require accommodations to attend, please contact gradprog@sohe.wisc.edu.

What makes this program unique?

  • In-depth skills and training for professional researchers, including:
    • Empirical methods, experimental methods and causal inference
    • Analysis of major public datasets as well as administrative data
    • Understanding of consumer and household well-being theories and applications
    • Understanding of decision-making theories and models
  • An emphasis on applications and applied research for strategy and policymaking in the public and private sectors
  • Access to the extensive courses, faculty, resources and expertise of disciplinary departments and centers across the UW-Madison campus
  • The potential for an intensive, four-year time to degree
  • The ability to develop disciplinary or field sub-specialties, certificates and minor designations
  • A focus on teaching, teaching experiences, outreach and presenting findings for the public
  • An emphasis on publication and dissemination of research as a graduate student, including support to attend professional conferences
  • Access to high quality statistics servers and unique datasets
  • Opportunities to conduct research with centers and institutes across campus
  • Multi-year funding available, including tuition and stipends
  • A small program with approximately 20 students total

Program Emphases

    • Applied research in consumer and household decision making that can inform market structures and policy
    • Contributing to our understanding of consumer well-being (broadly defined)
    • Applying a variety of methodological and theoretical approaches to consumer issues
    • Serving as a central hub for research on retirement and disability (RDRC) and a training ground for younger scholars from across the country (JSIT)

Faculty Research

    • Consumer Decision-making processes (Ashton, Collins, Robb, Wong, Zhang)
    • Household Finance (Collins, Robb, Zhang)
    • Food insecurity (Bartfeld, Bublitz, Fitzpatrick)
    • Financial Capability (Collins, Harvey, Robb)
    • Financial Well-being (Bea, Collins, Robb, Wong)
    • Financial Inequality (Bea, Collins, Harvey, Pate)
    • Cultural Values and Consumption Decisions (Wong)
    • Health Policy (Fitzpatrick)
    • Public Policy Considerations (Bartfeld, Collins, Fitzpatrick, Harvey, Pate)

Information Session Slides

Career Paths

Tenure-track academic faculty positions, primarily in other schools of human ecology, human sciences, consumer science, or related fields.

Recent examples:

  • State University of New York at Buffalo
  • The University of Alabama
  • University of Central Arkansas
  • University of Georgia
  • University of Rhode Island
  • University of Sussex Business School
  • University of Toronto (postdoc)

Research administration positions in government, non-tenured academic units, nonprofit organizations, think tanks, and related entities.

Applied consumer research in the public and private sector, including market research, policy research, and consulting.

Student Stories

The journey to a PhD: Four graduates of the Consumer Behavior & Family Economics program reflect on their experiences

"Earning a PhD is a long journey. You will encounter difficulties in both research and life. However, you will also meet smart & fantastic people, and you can learn so much from them. Not everyone has the opportunity to experience this, so enjoy it!"

Trisha Chanda, PhD makes an impact through her research and mentorship

“The Consumer Behavior & Family Economics program taught me not only how to do research, but how to do it well.”

Program Contacts

Graduate Program Staff

4199 Nancy Nicholas Hall



Graduate Program Committee Chair

Michael Collins, PhD

Fetzer Family Chair in Consumer and Personal Finance, Professor