Robin L Phinney

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Robin Phinney received her PhD from the University of Michigan’s joint program in Political Science and Public Policy in 2010. Her research focuses on organized interests, social welfare policy, research methods, and the policymaking process. Several articles and working papers examine the role of interest groups in the policy process, the predictors of state policy choices, and the analysis of social welfare problems and policies. She recently completed a book manuscript on interest group collaboration during the welfare reform debates of the mid-1990s. This project argues that interest groups increasingly gain influence over legislators’ policy choices by building coalitions with diverse partners. When interest groups collaborate, the diversity of their partnerships allows them to pool the resources necessary for reaching multiple legislators, while increasing the scope and the credibility of the information they provide. An analysis of the behavior of organized interests in the two years preceding the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PWRORA), or welfare reform, reveals that interest groups on all sides of the policy debate engaged in diverse collaboration, both as a tool for pooling resources and as a strategy for signaling political support. In addition to providing support for the theory’s central propositions, the analysis helps to refine a set of hypotheses for future research on coalitional influence across policy domains. The book manuscript is currently under review.

Educational Background & Specialties

Educational Background

  • PhD: Public Policy and Political Science, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 2010.
  • BA: Political Science and Communication Studies, UCLA, 2000.

Curriculum Vitae


  • Interest groups and lobbying
  • Social welfare policy
  • State politics and policy
  • Research methods
Courses Taught
  • The Politics of Public Affairs (graduate)
  • Issues in American Public Policy (undergraduate)
  • Interest Groups, Social Movements, and the Politics of Race, Class, and Gender (undergraduate)
  • Statistics (graduate) (Brown University)
  • Political Advocacy (graduate) (Brown University)
  • Social Welfare Policy (undergraduate) (Brown University)
  • Introduction to Public Policy (undergraduate) (Brown University)
Research & Professional Activities


  • Strange Bedfellows: Interest Group Coalitions, Diverse Resources, and Influence in American Social Policy (book manuscript under review):
  • Lobbying for the Poor: Interest Group Coalitions and Influence in American Social Policy (under review):
  • "Power through Partnerships: Interest Group Collaboration and Influence in Congress" (under review):
  • "Does Anti-Poverty Advocacy Matter? Interest Groups and State Policy Choices after Welfare Reform" (under review):
  • "Did the Civil Rights Movement have a Direct Impact on Public Policy? Evidence from the Passage of State Fair Housing Laws, 1959-1965" (with Antony Chen, working paper):
  • “Measuring Collaborative Activity in Washington” (in preparation):
  • Robin Phinney. "Exploring Residential Mobility among Low-Income Families" (Forthcoming at Social Service Review, December 2013)
  • Robin Phinney, Sheldon Danziger, Harold Pollack, and Kristin Seefeldt. 2007. “Housing Instability among Current and Former Welfare Recipients.“ American Journal of Public Health 97(5).
  • Elisabeth Gerber, Sarah Haradon, and Robin Phinney. 2006. “Reforming the System of Care A Review of the Literature on Housing and Service Arrangements for Homeless Populations.” Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Available at
  • Robin Phinney, Kristin Seefeldt, Sheldon Danziger, and Harold Pollack. 2005. “Lifetime and Annual Substance Use, Abuse, and Dependence among Current and Former Welfare Recipients.” Michigan Program on Poverty and Social Welfare Policy, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Available at
  • Mary Malcomson Raphael Fellowship, Center for the Education of Women, 2008 - 2009
  • Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship, Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, University of Michigan, 2007 - 2008
  • Doctoral Research Award, Nonprofit and Public Management Center, University of Michigan, 2007
  • Ford Fellowship Research Award, Department of Political Science, University of Michigan, 2006 - 2007
  • Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy Departmental Fellowship, 2006-2007