Sociology at the Intersection of Schools, Families, and Communities



I am drawn to the nonprofit sector because I believe it contains insights into the promise and pitfalls of community organizational action for the creation of a more just and equal world. I believe that the insights of sociology can be usefully applied in this context of the combination of capitalism and socialism to better understand how people experience society’s problems and how we might all overcome them. 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. 




Revisiting Declines in Social Capital: Evidence from a New Measure

Inbar Weiss, Pamela Paxton, Kristopher Velasco, Robert W. Ressler


In the late twentieth century, researchers began calling attention to declining social capital in America and the potential consequences of this trend for a healthy society. While researchers empirically assessed the decline in social capital from the mid-1900s onward, this line of research diminished when the major source of data, the General Social Survey, stopped fielding critical questions in 2004. We do not know, therefore, whether social capital, especially associational social capital, has declined, stabilized, or even increased in a twentyfirst century America. In this paper, we develop a new measure of associational social capital using a confirmatory factor analysis of six indicators from the Civic Engagement Supplement to the Current Population Survey for 2008–2011 and 2013. Our findings support previous research suggesting that associational social capital does not seem to be declining over time. However, we do find evidence of a nonlinear decrease in associating during the Great Recession years. Across the entire time period, though, membership in groups has not declined and there has been little practical change in the amount of time that individuals spend with neighbors. Our analysis of the variance of social capital also shows no general change in the national dispersion of social capital from 2008 to 2013. The paper advances the measurement of social capital and updates our understanding of its possible decline.


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.