Research and Biography

Nicole Marwell is an Associate Professor in the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. Her research examines urban governance, with a focus on the diverse intersections between nonprofit organizations, government bureaucracies, and politics. 

Marwell’s approach to studying urban governance draws on an interdisciplinary set of insights and tools from sociology, organization studies, ethnic studies, political science, and public administration. She begins with the premise that organizations mediate the historically specific operation of key urban processes such as economic production, public goods distribution, community formation, and democratic representation. As such, organizations provide key sites for the empirical investigation of these and other urban phenomena. She understands cities as complex and shifting sets of inter-organizational relations, and uses qualitative, quantitative, and historical methods to explore how changes in this meso-level of social structure affect urban cohesion, inequality, and exclusion.

Her current research projects include: (1) the causes and consequences of spatial inequality in government contracting to nonprofit organizations in New York City; (2) direct dynamics of political patronage and political exchange in a municipal legislature; and (3) the citizenship and financial implications of collaborative governance in child welfare. This work is supported by the National Science Foundation and other funders.

Marwell has published articles in the American Sociological ReviewAnnals of the American Association of Political and Social Sciences, City and CommunitySocial Service Review, Qualitative Sociology, and the Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly. Her 2007 book, Bargaining for Brooklyn: Community Organizations in the Entrepreneurial City was published by the University of Chicago Press. Prior to beginning her academic career, Professor Marwell worked in the field of nonprofits and philanthropy, including New York City’s Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art, the AT&T Foundation, the Levi Strauss Foundation, and Nike.

She was previously an Associate Professor of Public Affairs at Baruch College, the Academic Director of the Baruch Center for Nonprofit Strategy and Management, and a member of the Sociology faculty at the CUNY Graduate Center.

Professor Marwell received her PhD in sociology from the University of Chicago.