Alumni (National Fellow)

Nicole Kazee

National Fellow
B.A. Wake Forest University
Ph.D. Yale University (2008)
Professional Sector:
Healthcare Services
Dream Mentor:
Lawrence Brown
Columbia University
Fields of Interest:
Economic Policy
Healthcare Policy
History of Capitalism
Social Issues


Nicole Kazee is senior vice president of strategy and business development with Erie Family Health Center in the greater Chicago area. Dr. Kazee helps ensure the sustainability of Erie’s mission by leading the development of strategic goals and plans. She also leads new business and service opportunities and helps ensure Erie’s continued successful implementation of Medicaid managed care. Before joining Erie, Kazee served as the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Strategy for the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System (UI Health). There Kazee provided leadership around Medicaid implementation, offering successful strategic guidance on improving the system’s financial position and the quality of patient care. Kazee has also been a joint-appointed assistant professor for the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs and the University of Illinois at Chicago Department of Political Science. Kazee received a bachelor’s degree in politics from Wake Forest University and a Ph.D. in political science from Yale University. She serves on the board of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and the Center for Housing and Health, where she is currently board chair.

Thesis Description:

Wal-Mart Welfare?: The Role of Low-Wage Employers in American Antipoverty Policy
Kazee’s dissertation explored how antipoverty programs have increasingly helped low-income workers and their families. This change expanded the relevant interest group community to include employers and their organizations, which have a new stake in the type and generosity of government policies that are used to support the poor. Second, policymaking authority has devolved to the states, which increasingly make decisions about which policies to enact and who will be eligible for them - and vary widely in these choices. This project asked why some states offer greater work support than others, and why particular policies are chosen over the alternatives. Most importantly, the project emphasized the role of employers in policy choices, determining the conditions under which the business community will shape antipoverty policies and the nature of its influence.

To answer these questions, her dissertation created an original scale of Work Support in all 50 states, looking primarily at three very different policy areas: Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, state minimum wages, and state earned income tax credits. A quantitative analysis considered a wide range of variables that could potentially explain these state policy outcomes, and identified broad patterns across states. Finally, three states are studied in depth through media analyses, the examination of government documents, and, most importantly, numerous personal interviews. These case studies captured the more subtle, contextual elements of policymaking that ultimately shape state outcomes.

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