Nik Theodore

Phone: 312.355.1340
Curriculum Vitae (PDF)

Nik Theodore is a Professor in UIC’s Department of Urban Planning and Policy. His work focuses on economic restructuring, labor standards, and worker organizing. His research has been published in economics, public policy, and urban studies journals including: Cambridge Journal of Economics, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Urban Geography, European Urban and Regional Studies, Economic Development Quarterly, Political Geography, and others. His research on employment issues has been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Time, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, CNN, BBC, PBS’s NewsHour, All ­Things Considered, MarketPlace, and others. Prior to joining UIC he was an Atlantic Fellow in Public Policy at the University of Manchester (England).  He is also an editor of Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography.

In 2014, Professor Theodore was named “Highly Cited Researcher” by Thomson Reuters.


Raising Labor Standards in a Volatile Economy

Economic growth is not what it used to be—especially for workers employed at the bottom of the labor market.  The 1990s were the longest and most robust period of economic growth in U.S. history.  Yet even though this period brought sustained job growth and progressively tightening labor markets, it coincided with a pronounced erosion of employment standards for workers holding low-wage jobs.  The succession of deep recessions and protracted jobless recoveries that followed the 1990s boom have witnessed the further entrenchment of “low-road” employment practices across the economy, and workers in diverse sectors including construction, domestic work, retail, and manufacturing have seen wages stagnant and workplace conditions deteriorate.

The worker center movement in the U.S. has emerged in response to these conditions.  Along with their labor union, workforce development, and policy advocacy partners, worker centers are improving wages and working conditions in a range of low-wage industries.  With support from the Ford Foundation, the LIFT Fund and New World Foundation, and under the direction of Professor Nik Theodore, researchers at GCI are providing support to the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), and other workers’ rights organizations.  Activities include documenting conditions in low-wage industries, evaluating organizational performance, and strengthening enforcement of labor standards.


N. Brenner, J. Peck and N. Theodore (2012) Afterlives of Neoliberalism. London: Bedford Press/Architectural Association.

J. Peck and N. Theodore (2012) “Politicizing Contingent Work: Countering Neoliberal Labor-Market Regulation…From the Bottom Up?” South Atlantic Quarterly 111(4): 741-761.

N. Theodore (2012) “Policing Borders: Unauthorized Immigration and the Pernicious Politics of Attrition,” Social Justice 38(1/2): 87-102.

J. Peck and N. Theodore (2012) “Reanimating Neoliberalism: Process Geographies of Neoliberalisation,” Social Anthropology 20(2): 177-185.

J. Peck, N. Theodore and Neil Brenner (2012) “ Neoliberalism Resurgent? Market Rule after the Great Recession,” South Atlantic Quarterly 111(2): 265-288.

N. Theodore and J. Peck (2012) “Framing Neoliberal Urbanism: Translating ‘Common Sense’ Urban Policy across the OECD Zone,” European Urban and Regional Studies 19(1): 20-41.

J. Peck and N. Theodore (2012) “Follow the Policy: A Distended Case Approach,” Environment and Planning A 44(1): 21-30.

N. Theodore, A. Bernhardt and J. DeFillipis (2012) “Under the Radar: Tracking the Violation of Labour Standards in Low-Wage Industries in the U.S.,” in C. Warhurst, F. Carré, P. Findlay and C. Tilly, eds., “Are Bad Jobs Inevitable? Trends, Determinants, and Responses to Job Quality in the Twenty-first Century, 208-223. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

J. Peck, N. Theodore and N. Brenner (2012) “Neoliberalism, interrupted,” in D. Cahill, L. Edwards and F. Stilwell, eds., Neoliberalism: Beyond the Free Market, 15-30Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

N. Brenner, N. Theodore and J. Peck (2012) “Towards Deep Neoliberalization?” in J. Künkel and M. Mayer, eds., Neoliberal Urbanism and its Contestations – Crossing Theoretical Boundaries, 27-45. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

N. Theodore, J. Peck, and N. Brenner (2011) “Neoliberal Urbanism: Cities and the Rule of Markets,” in G. Bridge and S. Watson, eds., A New Companion to the City, 15-25.  London: Blackwell.

N. Brenner, J. Peck, and N. Theodore (2010) “After Neoliberalization?” Globalizations 7(3): 327-345.

J. Peck and N. Theodore (2010) “Recombinant Workfare, Across the Americas: Transnationalizing ‘Fast’ Social Policy,” Geoforum 41(2): 195-208.

J. Peck and N. Theodore (2010) “Mobilizing Policy: Models, Methods and Mutations,” Geoforum 41(2): 169-174.

N. Brenner, J. Peck, and N. Theodore (2010) “Variegated Neoliberalization: Geographies, Modalities, Pathways,” Global Networks 10(2): 1-41.

N. Theodore (2010) “Urban Underclass: The Wayward Travels of a Chaotic Concept,” Urban Geography 31(2): 169-174.

E. Meléndez, N. Theodore, and A. Valenzuela (2010) “Day Laborers in New York’s Informal Economy,” in E. Marcelli, C. Williams, and P. Joussart-Marcelli, eds., The Informal Economy in the Developed World, 133-150. London: Routledge.

J. Peck, N. Theodore, and N. Brenner (2010) “Postneoliberalism and its Malcontents,” Antipode 42(6): 94-116.

N. Theodore, E. Meléndez, and A. Valenzuela (2009) “Worker Centers: Defending Labor Standards for Migrant Workers in the Informal Economy,”International Journal of Manpower 30(5): 422-436.

J. Peck, N. Theodore, and N. Brenner (2009) “Neoliberal Urbanism: Models, Moments, Mutations,” SAIS Review 29(1): 49-66.

M. Doussard, J. Peck, and N. Theodore (2009) “After Deindustrialization: Uneven Growth and Economic Inequality in ‘Postindustrial’ Chicago,” Economic Geography 85(2): 183-207.

J. Peck and N. Theodore (2008) “Carceral Chicago: Making the Ex-offender Employability Crisis,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research32(2): 251-281.

H. Cordero-Guzman, N. Martin, V. Quiroz-Becerra, and N. Theodore (2008) “Voting with their Feet: Nonprofit Organizations and Immigrant Mobilization,”American Behavioral Scientist 52(4): 598-617.

N. Theodore, A. Valenzuela, E. Meléndez, and A. L. Gonzalez (2008) “Day Labor and Workplace Abuses in the Residential Construction Industry: Conditions in the Washington, DC Region,” in A. Bernhardt, H. Boushey, L. Dresser, and C. Tilly, eds., The Gloves Off Economy: Workplace Standards at the Bottom of America’s Labor Market, 91-109. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

N. Theodore (2007) “New Labour at Work: Long-Term Unemployment and the Geography of Opportunity,” Cambridge Journal of Economics 31: 927-939.

J. Peck and N. Theodore (2007) “Variegated Capitalism,” Progress in Human Geography 31(6): 731-772.

N. Theodore and N. Martin (2007) “Migrant Civil Society: New Voices in the Struggle over Community Development,” Journal of Urban Affairs 29(3): 269-287.

J. Peck and N. Theodore (2007) “Flexible Recession: The Temporary Staffing Industry and Mediated Work in the United States,” Cambridge Journal of Economics 31(2): 171-192.

N. Martin, S. Morales, and N. Theodore (2007) “Migrant Worker Centers: Contending with Downgrading in Low-Wage Labor Markets,” GeoJournal 68: 155-165.