Quinn Mulroy

Quinn Mulroy

Assistant Professor, Human Development and Social Policy
Assistant Professor (by courtesy), Political Science
Faculty Associate, Institute for Policy Research

Annenberg Hall
Room 217
2120 Campus Drive
Evanston, IL 60208-0001


Quinn Mulroy is a political scientist whose work engages central questions in the subfields of social policy, law and society, inequality, political institutions, and American political development. At its core, her research agenda centers substantively on the study of inequality (racial, economic, and gender) through the lens of the policies, state-society relationships, and political institutions that can reinforce and/or challenge its persistence in American politics. Using a mixed set of methodological approaches - including historical analyses of archival materials, ethnographic observation, interviewing, survey experiments, and statistical examinations of quantitative data – she is engaged in several ongoing projects exploring the political development of social policy addressing inequality and the often informal, hidden, and unintended modes of enforcement crafted by those who implement it.
Her forthcoming book, Agents of Litigation: How the American Bureaucracy Leverages Private Legal Power to Make Policy Work, explores how administrators in civil rights and environmental agencies – constrained by mid-20th Century legislative compromises denying them adequate administrative powers or resources – developed innovative and entrepreneurial strategies to mobilize private citizens to bring lawsuits against policy violators in the courts. At its core, this research project, seeks to better explain how rights protection actually works – and doesn’t work – in the U.S. In contrast to accounts of increased legal mobilization in the last half century that suggest private citizens and groups have defiantly turned to the courts to fulfill regulatory demands largely unmet by the allegedly weak American bureaucracy, this book reintegrates the actors and institutions that compose the administrative arm of the state into our larger developmental narratives of regulation in 20th Century American politics. Earlier versions of this project received the Leonard D. White Best Dissertation Award from the American Political Science Association (APSA) in 2012, and the 2012 Best Conference Paper Award from APSA’s Law & Courts Section. 
As an extension of these lines of research inquiry, Mulroy also has a number of ongoing collaborative research projects examining the political development and implementation of social policy addressing racial, economic, and gender inequalityThe first explores the development of informal means for policing Title IX policy on college campuses and uses ethnographic observation and interviewing to examine how these experiences shape the legal consciousness of target populations and produce feedback effects for attitudes toward government institutions and political engagement. The second, conducted under the Chicago Democracy Project, examines the shifting political-economic terrain for inequality-reducing policies in American cities. And the third engages questions concerning the historical development of partisan approaches to the political framing of higher education policy, particularly with respect to programs that target minority and underserved student populations. Each of these research projects is centrally focused on not just understanding policy ‘as written,’ but also how the processes and decisions of implementation – made by both administrators and members of civil society – shape the politics and the legacy of partisan and ideological position-taking on social policy. In doing so, this research agenda speaks to the importance of understanding the subtle interactions between state and society that occur in the process of addressing inequality – across substantive policy areas, institutional contexts, and historical moments.

A Chicago native, Mulroy received a B.A. from the University of California-Berkeley and a Ph.D. in Political Science from Columbia University, and after living on both coasts, now finds herself back in  the 'middle' of things. Her work has been recognized by visiting fellowships and grants from the Miller Center for Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, the American Bar Foundation, Princeton University's Law and Public Affairs Program, the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy at Columbia University, and the Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy.

Curriculum Vitae

Adobe Acrobat PDF View Quinn Mulroy's CV.


  • 2018 - Outstanding Professor Award, School of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University
  • 2012 - Leonard D. White Best Dissertation Award, American Political Science Association
  • 2012 - Best Conference Paper Award, American Political Science Association, Law and Courts Section



Year Degree Institution
2012 PhD, Political Science Columbia University
2001 BA, Political Science University of California, Berkeley

Selected Publications

Mulroy, Quinn (Working Paper/In Press/Under Review). Agents of Litigation: The American Bureaucracy and the Regulatory Power of Private Lawsuits. Forthcoming 2019.

Mulroy, Quinn and Shana Gadarian (2018). "Off to the Courts? Or the Agency? Public Attitudes on Legal and Bureaucratic Approaches to Policy Implementation". Laws, Special Issue: Intersection between Law, Politics and Public Policy, 7: 1-18.
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Mulroy, Quinn (2018). "Enforcing Rights Protections: Private Civil Rights Litigation and the American Bureaucracy" in Dodd, Lynda (ed), The Rights Revolution Revisited: Perspectives on the Role of Private Enforcement of Civil Rights in the U.S. Cambridge University Press.

Katznelson, Ira and Quinn Mulroy (2012). "Was the South Pivotal? Situated Partisanship and Policy Coalitions during the New Deal and Fair Deal". Journal of Politics, 74(2): 604-620.
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Bimes, Terri and Quinn Mulroy (2004). "The Rise and Decline of Presidential Populism". Studies in American Political Development, 18(2): 136-159.
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Research Interests

Political analysis; policy development and implementation; political institutions (law and courts, regulatory agencies, Congress); civil rights, environmental, and education policy; relationship between state and society/public and private; and American political development.

Last Updated: 2018-11-27 19:16:53