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Race/ethnicity, human capital, and the selection of young children into early childhood education

Robert W. Ressler, Elizabeth Ackert, Arya Ansari, Robert Crosnoe

Mexican-origin families face complex ethnic and immigration-based barriers to enrollment in early childhood education programs. As such, reducing barriers to enrollment for this population requires a better understanding of how Mexican-origin families work with, against, or around both general and group-specific constraints on educational opportunities. Using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study–Birth Cohort, this study tailored broad social theory to the experience of Mexican-origin families to examine associations between human capital considerations and early childhood education enrollment within this population. Results supported the hypothesis that human capital considerations would be associated with early childhood care and education and provide limited evidence for the expectation that this link would be stronger for Mexican-origin families.

Community contexts and utilization of early childhood care and education among Mexican-origin children

Elizabeth Ackert, Robert W. Ressler, Arya Ansari, and Robert Crosnoe

Children of Mexican origin are under-enrolled in early childhood education programs relative to Black and White children, which is problematic given the potential benefits of early childhood education. To better understand this under-enrollment in ways that can inform efforts to change it in the future, this study examined how utilization of early care and education programs varied among Mexican-origin families according to the community contexts where they lived. Integrating data on Mexican-origin children in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort (n = 1100) with community data from the U.S. Census Bureau, logistic regressions revealed that the odds of enrollment in early care and education programs among Mexican-origin children increased as the supply of childcare centers in their counties increased. Holding childcare center supply constant, their enrollment also increased as the percent of co-ethnic Latinos/as in the county increased, especially for children from the least acculturated Mexican-origin families. Overall, these results suggest that ethnic enclaves might link Mexican-origin families to early childhood care and education programs for their children and that this role might be most important for families least likely to be connected to U.S. institutions.

Do National Service Programs Improve Subjective Well-Being in Communities?

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

Since the creation of Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) in 1964 and AmeriCorps in 1993, a stated goal of national service programs has been to strengthen the overall health of communities across the United States. But whether national service programs have such community effects remains an open question. Using longitudinal cross-lagged panel and change-score models from 2005 to 2013, this study explores whether communities with national service programs exhibit greater subjective well-being. We use novel measures of subjective well-being derived from tweeted expressions of emotions, engagement, and relationships in 1,347 U.S. counties. Results show that national service programs improve subjective well-being primarily by mitigating threats to well-being and communities that exhibit more engagement are better able to attract national service programs. Although limited in size, these persistent effects are robust to multiple threats to inference and provide important new evidence on how national service improves communities in the United States.

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.