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Chloe Thurston

Assistant Professor of Political Science

PhD, Political Science, University of California, Berkeley, 2013

Political scientist Chloe Thurston’s research is at the intersection of American political development and political economy and has focused on the development of social and economic policies, interest groups and social movements, institutional change, and historical analysis. Prior to coming to Northwestern in 2014, she was a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University. She has been a Northwestern Public Voices Fellow and a Hewlett Teaching Fellow. In 2019-20, she was a member of the School of Social Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J.

Thurston is the author of At the Boundaries of Home Ownership: Credit, Discrimination, and the American State (Cambridge University Press, 2018), which received the 2020 J. David Greenstone Award from the American Political Science Association’s Politics and History Section. Her research has been published or is forthcoming in Perspectives on Politics, Journal of Public Policy, Studies in American Political Development, and Politics, Groups, and Identities. Her op-eds have appeared in Ms. Magazine and The Monkey Cage in the Washington Post.

Current Research

Politics of Credit, Debt, and Asset Inequality in the U.S. Thurston is currently working on two projects related to the politics of credit, debt, and asset inequality in the United States. The first of these, joint with Emily Zackin of Johns Hopkins University, examines the rise and fall of a protective debt relief regime in the U.S. The second examines the political economy of asset and wealth inequality following key civil rights reforms in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Politics of Home Ownership. Thurston examines the important role that the federal government played since the 1930s in who could own a home and uncovers the important role of citizen efforts to expand access to home ownership to groups discriminated against. Advocacy groups, including the NAACP and the Women’s Equity Action League, fought for minorities, women, and low-income people against discriminatory government policies such as restrictive covenants that limited home ownership. 

Policy Feedback’s Limited Effects. With IPR political scientist Dan Galvin, Thurston is studying the limited ability of policy feedback processes to cement partisan loyalties, especially in the Democratic Party. Although Democrats have relied on policy success as if it were political success—believing voters would support the party because of its policies—the researchers find that elections are not won by policy accomplishments. Instead, political parties need to strengthen party organization.


Selected Publications


Thurston, C. 2018. At the Boundaries of Home Ownership: Credit, Discrimination, and the American State. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Winner of the American Political Science Association's 2020 J. David Greenstone Award, Politics and History Section, for best book.


Michener, J., M. SoRelle, and C. Thurston. Forthcoming. From the margins to the center: A bottom-up approach to welfare state scholarship. Perspectives on Politics.

Thurston, C. 2020. Hidden fees? The hidden state framework and the reform prospects for systems of monetary sanctions. UCLA Criminal Justice Law Review 4(1).

Galvin, D., and C. Thurston. 2020. The limited party-building effects of policy feedback. In An Unsettled Time: American Political Development and the Trump Presidency, ed. P. Rocco and Z. Callen, 28–39. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Karol, D., and C. Thurston. 2020. From personal to partisan: Abortion, party, and religion among California state legislators. Studies in American Political Development 34(1): 91–109.

Thurston, C. 2018. Black Lives Matter, American political development, and the politics of visibility. Politics, Groups, and Identities 6:162–70.

Galvin, D., and C. Thurston. 2017. The Democrats’ misplaced faith in policy feedback. The Forum 15(2): 333–43. 

Thurston, C. 2015. Policy feedback in the public-private welfare state: Advocacy groups and access to government homeownership programs, 1934-1954. Studies in American Political Development 29(2): 250–67. 

Rocco, P., and C. Thurston. 2014. From metaphors to measures: Observable indicators of gradual institutional change. Journal of Public Policy 34(1): 35–62.