Nicole Marwell, a female-presenting person, smiles towards the camera in a library.

Nicole P. Marwell, PhD

Professor and Faculty Director, SSL Program

969 E. 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637

Office Location: E011

Areas of Expertise
Government and Policy
Non-Profit Organizations
Poverty and Income
UChicago Affiliations
Data Science Institute
DSI Internet Equity Initiative
Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation

Nicole Marwell's research examines a range of questions about urban governance, with a focus on the diverse intersections between nonprofit organizations, government bureaucracies, communities, 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 (for more information on each project, click the "Research Projects" tab on this page):

(1) A book project, under contract with Stanford University Press, entitled Impact Isn't Everything: Randomized Controlled Trials and the Transformation of the Nonprofit Sector. Co-authored with Jennifer E. Mosley, Crown Family School.

(2) The Internet Equity Initiative, a collaboration with Nick Feamster, UChicago Department of Computer Science. 

(3) The Knowledge Integration Initiative, a collaboration with colleagues at the Crown Family School, the University of Washington, and the University of Indiana.

(4) Emerging Directions in the Data-Society Interface. A report for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Key Issues in Social Sector Governance

This course introduces students to a set of important ideas for thinking about governance and its major players in the social sector. Governance is a complex...

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See all news articles about Professor and Faculty Director, SSL Program Nicole P. Marwell
Nicole Marwell And Nick Feamster Talk About The New FCC Monthly Internet Subsidy For Low-Income Households
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Nicole Marwell on new research that finds deep disparities in internet access across Chicago
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Study shows wide disparity of internet connection between different neighborhoods
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Nicole Marwell “South, West Side households have lowest rates of internet service, new data shows”
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Nicole Marwell on "32-point difference between the most connected neighborhoods in the Loop and Near North Side compared with Far South Side neighborhoods"
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Nicole Marwell, Nick Feamster gather data to better understand residents' internet needs on Chicago’s South and West sides
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See all media stories featuring Nicole P. Marwell
  • Marwell, Nicole P. and Cameron Day. Forthcoming (2022). Emerging Directions in the Data-Society Interface. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

  • Koschinsky, Julia, Nicole P. Marwell and Raed Mansour. 2022. “Does Health Service Funding Go Where the Need Is? A Prototype Spatial Access Analysis for New Urban Contracts Data.” BMC Health Services Research 22(45):1-12.

  • Marwell, Nicole P., Erez Aharon Marantz, and Delia Baldassarri. 2020. "The Microrelations of Urban Governance: Dynamics of Patronage and Partnership." American Journal of Sociology 125: 1559-1601.
  • Marwell, Nicole P. and Shannon L. Morrissey. 2020. "Organizations and the Governance of Urban Poverty." Annual Review of Sociology 46: 233-250.
  • Marwell, Nicole P. and Maoz Brown. 2020. "Towards a Governance Framework for Government-Nonprofit Relations." Pp. 231-250 in The Nonprofit Sector Research Handbook (3rd edition), eds. Walter W. Powell and Patricia Bromley. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.
  • Mosley, Jennifer E., Nicole P. Marwell, and Marci Ybarra. 2019. "How the 'What Works' Movement is Failing Human Service Organizations, and What Social Work Can Do to Fix It." Human Service Organizations: Management, Leadership and Governance.
  • Marwell, Nicole P. 2016. “Rethinking the State in Loic Wacquant’s Urban Outcasts.” Urban Studies.
  • Marwell, Nicole P. and Thad Calabrese. 2015. “A Deficit Model of Collaborative Governance: Government-Nonprofit Fiscal Relations in the Provision of Child Welfare Services.” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory. First published online November 24, 2014 doi:10.1093/jopart/muu047
  • Marwell, Nicole P. and Aaron Gullickson. 2013. “Inequality in the Spatial Allocation of Social Services: Government Contracts to New York City Nonprofit Organizations.” Social Service Review 87: 319-353.
  • Marwell, Nicole P. and Michael McQuarrie. 2013. “People, Place and System: Organizations and the Renewal of Urban Social Theory.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences 126-143.
  • Marwell, Nicole P. 2010. “Political Change and the Institutionalization of the Nonprofit Service Delivery Infrastructure.” In Elisabeth Clemens and Doug Guthrie, eds., Politics and Partnerships: Nonprofits and Associations in American Governance, pp. 209-236. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Marwell, Nicole P. 2009. “On Bodega Dreams.” Sociological Forum 24, 2: 461-464.
  • McQuarrie, Michael and Nicole P. Marwell. 2009. “The Missing Organizational Dimension in Urban Sociology.” City and Community 8, 3: 247-268.
  • Marwell, Nicole P. 2007. Bargaining for Brooklyn: Community Organizations in the Entrepreneurial City. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Marwell, Nicole P. 2007. “Looking for Robert Moses.” Contexts: Understanding People in their Social Worlds 6: 75-77.
  • Marwell, Nicole P. and Paul-Brian McInerney. 2005. “The Nonprofit/For-Profit Continuum: Theorizing the Dynamics of Mixed-Form Markets.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 34, 1: 7-28.
  • Marwell, Nicole P. 2004. “Privatizing the Welfare State: Nonprofit Community-Based Organizations as Political Actors.” American Sociological Review 69: 265-291.
  • Marwell, Nicole P. 2004. “Ethnic and Post-Ethnic Politics in New York City: The Dominican Second Generation.” Pp. 257-284 in Philip Kasinitz, Mary Waters, and John Mollenkopf, eds., Becoming New Yorkers: Ethnographies of the New Second Generation. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
  • Marwell, Nicole P., Françoise Jacobsohn, Susan J. Neva and Mineko Okamoto. 2003. “University-Community Partnerships: New York City University-Nonprofit Information Transfer Project Report.” Working Paper Series of the Center for Urban Research and Policy, Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy, Columbia University.
  • Marwell, Nicole P. 2002. “Sociological Uses of a Sociological Memoir.” 2002. Qualitative Sociology 25, 1: 139-143.
  • Marwell, Nicole P. 1999. “Social Networks and Social Capital as Resources for Community Revitalization: Initial Insights.” The Aspen Institute Nonprofit Sector Research Fund Working Paper Series.

Nicole P. Marwell is Associate Professor in the University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice, where she is also Faculty Director of the School's Master's Degree in Social Sector Leadership and Nonprofit Management. Marwell is a faculty affiliate of the UChicago Department of Sociology, affiliated faculty at the UChicago Data Science Institute, and a member of the Faculty Advisory Council of the UChicago Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation.

Marwell has published articles in the American Sociological ReviewAmerican Journal of Sociology, Annual Review of Sociology, Annals of the American Association of Political and Social Sciences, City and CommunitySocial Service Review, Human Service Organizations, 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 at 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.