Assistant Research Professor (Investigadora Auxiliar)
Centre for Economics and Finance(cefUP)
CV (in pdf)
BA Philosophy, Politics, Economics, Oxford University (UK)
PhD Managerial Science and Applied Economics, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania (USA)
Biography and Research
Dr. Helena Szrek is a researcher at the Centre for Finance and Economics at the University of Porto, in Portugal. She specializes in judgment and decision making with two different focuses, (i) analyzing the choice processes of consumers (especially health care consumers) and (ii) the link between health and entrepreneurship. She also has a strong interest in data collection methodologies.
Her research has been published in internationally known journals across different disciplines including public health, psychology, economics, and entrepreneurship. Dr. Szrek’s research has been supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Portuguese Foundation of Science and Technology, Stanford University’s Center for Advancing Decision Making on Aging, University of Pennsylvania’s Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, and University of Pennsylvania’s Population Studies Center/Penn Aging Research Center/Boettner Center for Pension Research.
Choice processes of consumers
At the core of Dr. Szrek’s research on choice is the idea that any strategies implemented by companies or government must consider the needs and abilities of the individual, as well as the specific context in which he/she is making decisions. Small changes in the environment (ex. characteristics of the store in which products are purchased, characteristics of the product itself, and/or of the purchasing process) will affect different individuals in distinct ways, resulting in different purchase patterns. Hence, across much of her current work, she is trying to understand how the “choice architecture” or design of the environment and product that individuals are choosing will differentially influence purchasing decisions, depending on individual cognitive capacities and needs.
Some of the contexts she has studied include cell phone choice (Szrek and Martins, Under Review), purchase of children’s health insurance (Szrek and Bundorf, Under Preparation), purchase of subsidized health insurance by older adults (Bundorf and Szrek, 2010; Szrek and Bundorf, 2011, Szrek and Bundorf, In press), design of employee workplace wellness programs (Szrek, Geyster et al., Under Preparation), and adoption of new digital technologies (Otero and Szrek, Under Preparation).
Health and Entrepreneurship
Dr. Szrek is currently investigating the roles of health and decision processes on the evolution of businesses in developing countries. In past work, Szrek and colleagues have analyzed how the poor health of business owners can lead to the closure of businesses (Chao, Pauly, Szrek, et al., 2007), how the good health of business owners can lead to the opening of new businesses (Chao, Szrek et al., 2010), and how the pursuit of investment opportunities by small business owners is related to their time preferences (Chao, Szrek, et al., 2009).
Building on these studies, Szrek and colleagues are analyzing the relationship between health and business ownership using more rigorous methodologies that utilize three years of longitudinal data with a larger sample size, coupled with infrastructure data, health and HIV biomarkers of respondents, and more complete measures of entrepreneurial activity and success (Chao, Szrek, et al., 2012).
Current and future work considers the effects of HIV on businesses. HIV prevalence is about 11-12% in South Africa, but rates are as high as 30-40% in some townships. It is unclear how such high prevalence affects HIV+ individuals, especially in terms of their ability to get jobs and run businesses. Another area of future work is to better understand how fundamental preferences such as risk aversion and loss aversion affect the inter-relationship between entrepreneurial activity and health investments.
Although these studies are currently focused in South Africa, the findings are pertinent to economic policy in other countries. Entrepreneurship is a growing but relatively young field, and it is under-researched overall and in many areas. In particular, entrepreneurship is much less studied in developing countries, and the link to health has been, so far, mostly overlooked.
Dr. Helena Szrek’s teaching has included undergraduate, graduate, and executive courses in different areas of marketing, management, and health care. She has taught at the Faculty of Economics of the University of Porto and the School of Business and Economics of the Catholic University of Portugal in Lisbon.