Margaret Thomas

Margaret M. C. Thomas, PhD

Assistant Professor

969 E. 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637

Office Location: W014

Areas of Expertise
Child Welfare and Child Protection
Child Welfare System
Children and Adolescents
Food Insecurity
Guaranteed Income
Material Hardship
Social Welfare Policy
Social Work

Margaret (Maggie) Thomas is an Assistant Professor in the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice. Her scholarship and teaching emphasize structural sources of oppression and privilege, grounded in her practice experiences working with children, youth, and families facing social and economic marginalization.

Dr. Thomas’s research focuses on the wellbeing of economically marginalized individuals and families through the lens of policy causes and solutions to material hardship and poverty. She conducts two primary streams of research. First, she examines material hardship and its consequences for other domains of wellbeing, such as child protective services involvement (CPS) and health and mental health outcomes. Second, she analyzes policy impacts on poverty and hardship, such as Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) consequences for material hardship experiences. Some of Dr. Thomas’s current research projects include a multi-year, randomized controlled trial testing the effects of guaranteed income receipt on material hardship and other domains of wellbeing; a study of the structure and systemic causes of the relationships between food insecurity and mental health; and work examining the relative roles of material hardship and income poverty in shaping child and family wellbeing. Throughout her research, Dr. Thomas prioritizes engaging and training student research collaborators, responding to community members’ needs for and interest in research engagement, and sharing research findings in accessible ways. Dr. Thomas’s work has been supported by the Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy, the Society for Social Work and Research, the UCLA Council on Research, and the County of Los Angeles.

Dr. Thomas teaches courses in social welfare policy, quantitative methods, and poverty and hardship. Her teaching emphasizes social and policy systems, attends to structural forces that create marginalization and opportunity, and supports students’ development of meaningful, relevant knowledge and skills.

Juried Research Articles

  • Byrne, T.H., Miller, D.P., Thomas, M.M.C. (2023). Impact of the monetary value of housing assistance on adult health outcomes. Health Services Research.

  • Thomas, M.M.C. (2023). Latent classes and longitudinal patterns of material hardship as predictors of child wellbeing. Children & Society.

  • Evangelist, M., Thomas, M.M.C., Waldfogel, J. (2023). Child protective services contact and youth outcomes. Child Abuse & Neglect, 136.

  • Nepomnysachy, L., Thomas, M.M.C., *Haralampoudis, A., & *Jin, H. (2022). Nonresident father involvement and children’s economic precarity. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 702(1), 78-96.

  • Thomas, M.M.C. (2022) Longitudinal patterns of material hardship among US families. Social Indicators Research, 163, 341–370.

  • Thomas, M.M.C. & Waldfogel, J. (2022). What kind of “poverty” predicts CPS contact: Income, material hardship, and differences among racialized groups. Children and Youth Services Review, 136.

  • Thomas, M.M.C., Waldfogel, J., & Williams, O. (2022). Inequities in CPS contact between Black and White children. Child Maltreatment.

  • Paceley, M.S., Ananda, J., Thomas, M.M.C., Sanders, I, Hiegert, D., & Monley, T. D. (2021). “I have nowhere to go”: A multiple-case study of transgender and gender diverse youth, their families, and health care experiences. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(17).

  • Miller, D.P. & Thomas, M.M.C. (2020). Policies to reduce food insecurity: An ethical imperative. Physiology & Behavior, 222.

  • Ha, Y., Thomas, M.M.C., Byrne, T.H., & Miller, D.P. (2020). Patterns of multiple instability among low-income families with children. Social Service Review, 94(1), 129- 168.

  • Miller, D.P., Thomas, M.M.C., Nepomnyaschy, L., Waller, M., & Emory, A.D. (2020). Father involvement and socioeconomic disparities in child academic outcomes. Journal of Marriage and Family, 82(2), 515-533.

  • AbiNader, M.A., Thomas, M.M.C., & Carolan, K. (2020). Talking (or not) about sexual violence: Newspaper coverage of the confirmation hearings of Justices Thomas and Kavanaugh. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 36(23-24).

  • Thomas, M.M.C., Mehta, A., Murphy, J., Childs, E., Sena, B.F., Dimitri, N., Dooley, D., Kane, J., Shen, A., Barros, E., Reid, M., & Bachman, S. (2020). Associations between public housing residency and health behaviors in a cross-sectional sample of Boston adults. Housing Policy Debate, 30(3), 335-347.

  • Thomas, M.M.C., Miller, D.P., & Morrissey, T.W. (2019). Food insecurity and child health. Pediatrics, 144(4), 1-9.

  • Paceley, M.S., Fish, J., Thomas, M.M.C., & Goffnett, J. (2019). The impact of community size, community climate, and victimization on the physical and mental health of sexual and gender minority youth. Youth & Society, 52(3), 427–448.

  • Paceley, M.S., Thomas, M.M.C., & Turner, G.W. (2019). Factors limiting SGM youth’s involvement in nonmetropolitan SGM community organizations. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 31(1), 1-18.

  • Ha, Y., Thomas, M.M.C., Narendorf, S.C., & Santa Maria, D. (2018). Correlates of shelter use among young adults experiencing homelessness. Children and Youth Services Review, 94, 477-484.

  • Paceley, M.S., Thomas, M.M.C., Goffnett, J., Toole, J., & Pavicic, E. (2018). ‘If rainbows were everywhere’: Nonmetropolitan SGM youth identify factors that make communities supportive. Journal of Community Practice, 26(4), 429-445.

  • Lough, B.J. & Thomas, M.M.C. (2014). Building a community of young leaders: Experiential learning in Jewish social justice. Journal of Experiential Education, 37(3), 248–264.

Research Reports and Briefs

  • Thomas, M.M.C. (2022). Mainstreaming gender: Structural gender inequities drive economic inequality. In Barth, R.P., Shanks, T.R., Messing, J. & Williams, J.H. (Eds.). Grand challenges for social work and society. (2nd Edition). London, Oxford.

  • Thomas, M.M.C. (2020). Measuring material hardship is critical for capturing economic need in US Census Bureau data. Society for Social Work and Research.

  • Ha, Y., Byrne, T.B., & Thomas, M.M.C. (2017). Designing data driven directions for school success of students involved in child welfare proceedings. Boston: Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Supreme Judicial Court, Court Improvement Program.

  • Lough, B.J., Thomas, M.M.C., & Asbill, M.A. (2013). International volunteering for development: A desk review of Forum members' grey literature. Ottawa: International Forum for Volunteering in Development.

  • Lough, B.J., Edralin, A., Thomas, M.M.C., & Xiang, X. (2013). Evaluating AJWS international service programs. Urbana IL: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

  • Lough, B.J., Thomas, M.M.C. (2012). Action for a just World: Evaluating Pursue, a project of American Jewish World Service & AVODAH, The Jewish Service Corps. Urbana IL: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.



Prior to joining the Crown Family School, Dr. Thomas was an Assistant Professor of Social Welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and a Postdoctoral Research Scientist at Columbia School of Social Work, where she worked on the Future of Families and Child Wellbeing Study. Dr. Thomas previously practiced as a social worker in the child welfare system and in community-based settings with LGBTQIA+ youth and families in downstate Illinois.

Dr. Thomas received a PhD from Boston University School of Social Work, an MSW from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a BA in History from the University of Notre Dame.