Sociology at the Intersection of Schools, Families, and Communities



As a researcher and as a laborer I am drawn to the nonprofit sector because of the promise and pitfalls that it contains for the creation of a more just and equal world. A combination of capitalism and socialism, I believe that the insights of sociology can be usefully applied to better understand the consequences of relying on this sector for public goods and services. Currently, I study what families and communities do when confronted with the need to provide after school care to elementary school children. In this way, I investigate how partnerships with community organizations can promote the educational and healthy development of children and youth, and what obstacles they may face in doing so. I focus on how (and if) nonprofit community organizations can support connections between schools and families, create healthier communities, and influence social life with attention to race/ethnicity and immigrant status.

I am currently on the market for an assistant professor or post doc position that will help me to further develop theories on the social impact of community organizations. 



Maternal Employment, Community Contexts, and the Child‐Care Arrangements of Diverse Groups

Elizabeth Ackert  Robert W. Ressler  Arya Ansari  Robert Crosnoe


Integrating family and child data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study–Birth Cohort with contextual data from the census, this study examined associations among maternal employment, aspects of communities related to child‐care supply and demand, and the early care and education arrangements of 4 year olds in Mexican‐origin, Black, and White families. Children with employed mothers were more likely to be in informal care arrangements than in early childhood education, regardless of racial/ethnic background. For children in Mexican‐origin families, selection into informal care over early childhood education was more likely in zip codes with greater demand for care as measured by higher female employment. Utilization of parent care versus early childhood education was also more likely for children in Mexican‐origin and Black families in zip codes with higher female employment. Constraints associated with maternal employment thus hindered children from enrolling in early childhood education, and community contexts posed challenges for some groups.

Mothers' Union Statuses and Their Involvement in Young Children's Schooling

Robert W. Ressler  Chelsea Smith  Shannon Cavanagh  Robert Crosnoe


U.S. schools often expect the educational involvement of parents, which may be facilitated when parents have partners, especially a partner also invested in the child. As such, parental involvement at school and at home could be a channel of the diverging destinies of U.S. children from different families. This study applied fixed effects modeling to the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study–Kindergarten Cohort to examine the link between mothers' union statuses and their involvement behaviors. Being partnered appeared to benefit mothers' school and home involvement when children were in the primary grades, with little evidence of an additional benefit from that partnership being marital. A biological tie between the male partner and the child only seemed to matter for mothers' school involvement. These patterns did not vary by family income, maternal depression, or maternal employment, but they were stronger when children were just beginning schooling.