Alumni (National Fellow)

Quinn Mulroy

National Fellow
B.A. University of California (2001)
Ph.D. Columbia University in the City of New York (2011)
Dream Mentor:
Dan Carpenter
Harvard University
Fields of Interest:
African American History
American Political Development
Environmental Policy
Housing Policy
Legal History
Political Science


Quinn Mulroy is an assistant professor of human development and social policy in the School of Education and Social Policy and (by courtesy) in the Department of Political Science at Northwestern University. Her research on the development of policymaking and policy implementation in the U.S. engages central questions in the fields of regulation, law and society, the bureaucracy, the presidency, Congress, civil rights and environmental policy, and American political development and has been published in the Journal of Politics and Studies in American Political Development. Mulroy received a Ph.D. in American politics from Columbia University where she worked with Ira Katznelson. She received a B.A. in political science from the University of California-Berkeley in 2001. Mulroy is the recipient of the 2018 Outstanding Professor Award, School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University.

Thesis Description:

Private Litigation, Public Policy Enforcement: The Regulatory Power of Private Litigation and the American Bureaucracy
Her dissertation examined the role of private power, particularly that supplied by private litigation, in the American regulatory state. While traditional accounts suggest that the progressive regulatory state that came into being over the course of the extended New Deal and Great Society periods is weak when compared to its counterparts abroad, Mulroy’s research builds on a revisionist strain within the APD literature which identifies strategies by which a lean liberal state can achieve impressive regulatory results. Through a historical analysis of the development of the regulatory capacity of several agencies, she argued that constrained agencies may look outside themselves, and their formally granted administrative powers, for enforcement power by developing incentive structures that encourage private actors to engage in litigation that advances regulatory goals. She found that variation in the use of this alternate source of regulatory power by agencies can be explained by factors related to an agency’s institutional development and formation, but also that the character, scope, and activation of this pathway of enforcement over time is contingent upon political and temporal considerations. By reconsidering how to integrate informal mechanisms of enforcement, like agency-motivated private litigation, into theories of bureaucratic regulation, her project aimed to contribute to our practical understanding of ’day-to-day’ agency behavior and to our conceptions and assessments of state capacity, more broadly.

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