Bruce Fuller

Bruce Fuller, a sociologist, delves into how families, civic activists, and policy makers lift the learning and well-being of children. He often focuses on the growth of young children, including the tension between large institutions and the varying ideals of child rearing pressed by diverse parents. Fuller's earlier book, Standardized Childhood, reports on the four-century old debate over how to nurture and teach young children in modernizing societies. He explores whether one regimented form of early education speaks to parents and kids in pluralist societies.

His book, Organizing Locally, examines why many big institutions are decentralizing control out to local shops -- from charter schools to clinic-based health care to aid for military veterans. Fuller details good news and bad news that emerges from localizing human services. He is finishing-up a sequel of sorts, a book that explores the past century of civic activism in Los Angeles, and how a colorful array of "new pluralists" have advanced potent reforms to raise student achievement.

A new book -- When Schools Work-- asks why student achievement climbed for nearly two decades in Los Angeles, and how a colorful pastiche of civic activists powered a variety of institutional reforms to lift children's learning. The rise of cultural and political pluralism sparked a variety of reform initiatives. This volume, built from a decade of empirical work in L.A. with graduate students, will be out fall, 2021, from Johns Hopkins University Press.

Fuller has moved inside Latino families, their preschools and public schools, to understand cultural conflicts that arise between colorful communities and the centralizing institutions that mark modern societies. He studies the cultural assets of Latino families, and how child rearing practices at times depart from dominant forms. His project with Prof. Claudia Galindo, Latino Contexts and Early Development, examines the segregated schools that many young children enter, and how integration with middle-class peers helps lift educational attainment. His research often assesses the effects of formal interventions, including preschool, and efforts to equalize school resources in order to narrow achievement gaps.

Fuller teaches in education policy and the sociology of organizations. He co-teaches with Prof. Baquedano Lopez the first-year seminar for Ph.D. students. A California native, he previously served as education advisor to the California legislature, then for an eccentric governor. Following graduate school at Stanford University, he worked as a research sociologist at the World Bank, then taught comparative policy at Harvard University, before returning to the Bay Area. 


Area 1. Sociology - Children and Schooling

     Popular Essays

  • "Biden's pre-k plan alone won't achieve lasting gains for poor children." Washington Post, July 2021.
  • "To integrate schools, Biden should start with pre-k." Chicago Tribune, April 2021.
  • "Biden's stimulus: A radical experiment for America's families." Newsweek, March 2021.
  • "The 'stars aligned' in budget deal, but hurdles remain for early education. EdSource, July 2021
  • "Are we reopening preschools fairly? Prioritizing children impacted by coronavirus." Brookings Institution, July 2020.
  • "Parents need child care, just not the kind Congress is funding." Politico, July 2020.
  • "Nurturing children in China," lecture for Peking University, 2020. Mandarin translation available.
  • "Reopening schools with fairness? New York City pre-k falls short of noble goals." Hechinger Report, June 2020.
  • "The segregation of Latino children: The bad, and dash of good, news." Washington Post, July 2019.
  • "Joe Biden thinks school segregation is nearly unsolvable..." Los Angeles Times, August 2019.
  • "The verdict on charter schools?" Atlantic Monthly. July 2015.
  • "Preschool is important, but it’s more important for poor children." Washington Post, February 2014.
  • "Only the Politicking Gets an 'A'. " Washington Post, 2004.


  • Fuller (in press) When Schools Work: Pluralist Politics and Institutional Reform in Los Angeles. Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Fuller with Bridges and Pai (2007) Standardized Childhood: The Political and Cultural Struggle over Early Education. Stanford.
  • Fuller (ed., 2000) Inside Charters SchoolsThe Paradox of Radical Decentralization. Harvard.
  • Fuller, Elmore, with Orfield (eds. 1996) Who Chooses, Who Loses? Culture, Institutions, and the Unequal Effects of School Choice. Teachers College.

     Selected Journal Articles (peer refereed)

  • Fuller & Leibovitz (2021). Raising Pre-K Quality in New York City: A Progressive Entitlement? Teachers College Record, Columbia University.
  • Kearns, Lauen, Fuller (2020). Competing with charter schools: Selection, retention, and achievement in Los Angeles pilot schools. Evaluation Review.
  • Fuller, Kim, Galindo, Bathia, Bridges, Duncan & Garcia Valdivia (2019). Worsening school segregation of Latino children? Educational Researcher.
  • Shin, Fuller, & Dauter (2017) Heterogeneous effects of charters schools: Unpacking family selection and achievement growth in Los Angeles. Journal of School Choice.
  • Dauter & Fuller (2016). Student movement in social context: The influence of time, peers and place. American Educational Research Journal.
  • Fuller, Waite, & Torres Irribarra (2016) Explaining teacher turnover: School cohesion and intrinsic motivation in Los Angeles. American Journal of Education.
  • Lauen, Fuller, & Dauter (2014). Positioning charter schools in Los Angeles: Diversity of form and homogeneity of effects. American Journal of Education.
  • Fuller, Bein, Bridges, Kim, & Rabe-Hesketh (2017). Do academic preschools yield stronger benefits? Cognitive emphasis,dosage, and early learning.Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology.
  • Fuller, Bein, Kim, & Rabe-Hesketh (2015). Differing Cognitive Trajectories of Mexican American Toddlers: The Role of Class, Nativity, and Maternal Practices. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences.
  • Jung, Fuller, & Galindo (2012). Family functioning and early learning practices in immigrant families. Child Development.
  • Fuller & García Coll (2010). Learning from Latinos: Contexts, families, and child development in motion. Developmental Psychology,
  • Livas-Dlott, Fuller, Stein, Bridges, Figueroa, & Mireles (2010). Commands, competence, and cariño: Maternal socialization practice in Mexican American families. Developmental Psychology.
  • Galindo & Fuller (2010). The social competence of Latino kindergartners and growth in mathematical understanding. Developmental Psychology.
  • Fuller, Bein, Bridges, Halfon, Jung, Rabe-Hesketh, & Kuo (2010). Maternal practices that influence Hispanic infants' health and cognitive growth. Pediatrics.
  • Fuller, Bridges, Bein, Jang, Jung, Rabe-Hesketh, Halfon, & Kuo (2009). The health and cognitive growth of Latino toddlers: At risk or immigrant paradox? Maternal and Child Health.
  • Loeb, Bridges, Bassok, Fuller & Rumberger(2006). How much is too much? The effects of duration and intensity of child-care experiences on children’s social and cognitive development. Economics of Education Review.
  • Loeb, Fuller, Kagan, and Carol (2004) Child Care in Poor Communities: Early Learning Effects of Type, Quality, and Stability. Child Development.
  • Fuller, Kagan, Loeb and Chang (2004) Child Care Quality: Centers and Home Settings that serve Poor Families, Early Childhood Research Quarterly,
  • Fuller, Loeb, Strath, and Carrol (2004) State Formation of the Child Care Sector: Family Demand and Policy Action, Sociology of Education.
  • Loeb, Fuller Kagan and Carol (2003) How Welfare Reform Affects Young Children: Experimental Findings from Connecticut. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.
  • Fuller and Strath (2001) The Child Care and Preschool Workforce: Demographics, Earnings, and Unequal Distribution. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis.
  • Fuller and Liang (1997) Market Failure? Estimating Inequality in Preschool Availability. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis.
  • Singer, Fuller, Keiley and Wolf (1998) Early Child Care Selection: Variation by Geographic Location, Maternal Characteristics, and Family Structure. Developmental Psychology.
  • Holloway, Fuller, and Liang (1996) Which Families Use Child Care? The Influence of Family Structure, Ethnicity, and Parental Practices. Child Development.
  • Fuller, Holloway, Rambaud and Eggers-Piérola (1996) How Do Mothers Choose Child Care? Alternate Cultural Models in Poor Neighborhoods. Sociology of Education.
  • Fuller and Clarke (1994) Raising School Effects while Ignoring Culture? Local Conditions and the Influence of Classroom Tools, Rules and Pedagogy, Review of Educational Research.
  • Fuller, Raudenbush, Holloway and Wei (1993) Can Government Raise Child Care Quality? The Influence of Family Demand, Poverty, and Policy, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis.
  • Fuller and Dornbusch (1988) The Organizational Construction of Intrinsic Motivation. Sociological Forum.
  • Holloway, Gorman and Fuller (1987) Child-Rearing Attributions and Efficacy among Mexican Mothers and Teachers. Journal of Social Psychology.

Area 2. Public Policy and Institutions

     Popular Essays

  • "A more caring economy for a post-pandemic America." San Francisco Chronicle, May 2020.
  • "Gov. Newsom's early childhood plans face dilemmas." Mercury News / Bay Area News Group.  January 2019.
  • "Gov. Pritzker's pro-family thrust could, ironically, worsen inequality." Chicago Tribune, March 2019.
  • "A shifting education model in China," Atlantic Monthly, December 2015.
  • "Even Tougher Love for Welfare Moms." Los Angeles Times, 2002.
  • "Poor Families, Rich Values," with Susan D. Holloway. Boston Globe, 1996.
  • Fuller and Holloway (1994) Welfare: It's No Reform if it Harms Children, Los Angeles Times.
  • "Virtual Policy: The Earned Income Tax Credit Feels Good, But Does It Lift Families Out of Poverty?" Chicago Tribune, 1996.
  • Carter's Program for Youth." New York Times, 1981.
  • "A Skeptic's Look at Brown's Era of Limits." Los Angeles Times. 1977.


  • Fuller (2015) Organizing Locally: How the New Decentralists Improve Education, Health Care, and Trade. Chicago.
  • Holloway and Fuller (1997) Through My Own Eyes: Single Mothers and the Cultures of Poverty. Harvard.
  • Fuller (1999) Government Confronts Culture: The Struggle for Local Democracy. Taylor & Francis.
  • Fuller and Rubinson (eds.1992) The Political Construction of Education: The State, School Expansion, and Economic Change. Praeger.
  • Fuller (1991) Growing Up Modern: The Western State Builds Third World Schools. Routledge.

     Selected Journal Articles (peer refereed)

  • Fuller & Soto-Vigil Koon (2014) Beyond hierarchies and markets: Are decentralized schools lifting poor children? Annals of the Academy of Political Science.
  • Fuller (2003) Education Policy under Cultural Pluralism. Educational Researcher.
  • Fuller, Caspary, Kagan et al. (2002) Does Maternal Employment Influence Poor Children's Social Development? Early Childhood Research Quarterly.
  • Fuller, Hage, Garnier and Sawicky (1992) Nation Building and School Expansion under the Fragile French State. Social Forces.
  • Garnier, Hage and Fuller (1989) The Strong State, Social Class, and Controlled School Expansion in France, 1881-1975. American Journal of Sociology.
  • Fuller, Hage and Garnier (1990) State Action and Labor Structure Change in Post-colonial Mexico. Social Forces.
  • Hage, Garnier and Fuller (1988) The Active State, Investment in Human Capital, and Economic Growth: France 1825-1975. American Sociological Review.
  • Rivarola and Fuller (1999) Nicaragua's Experiment to Decentralize Schools: Contrasting Views of Parents, Teachers, and Directors. Comparative Education Review.
  • Bradshaw and Fuller (1996) Policy Action and School Demand in Kenya: When a Strong State Grows Fragile. International Journal of Comparative Sociology.
  • Fuller, Singer and Keiley (1995) Why Do Girls Leave School in Southern Africa? Family Economy and Mothers' Commitments. Social Forces.
  • Fuller and Heyneman (1989) Third World School Quality: Current Collapse, Future Potential. Educational Researcher.
  • Fuller, Edwards, and Gorman (1986) When Does Education Boost Economic Growth? School Expansion and Quality in Mexico. Sociology of Education.
  • Fuller and Izu (1986) What Shapes the Organizational Beliefs of Teachers? American Journal of Education.
  • Holloway and Fuller (1983) Situational Determinants of Causal Attributions: The Case of Working Women. Social Psychology Quarterly.
  • Fuller, Wood, Rapoport and Dornbush (1982) The Organizational Context of Individual Efficacy. Review of Educational Research.
  • Fuller (1983) Youth Job Structure and School Enrollment. Sociology of Education.

Interests and Professional Affiliations

Social organization of families and schools

Public policy

Early Childhood Development

Faculty Cluster - Graduate School of Education

Policy, Politics, and Leadership

Building Child and Family Policy

We conduct research that informs fellow scholars and policy thinkers, from practitioners and grassroots activists to government officials. Many of these studies occur under the Berkeley Think Tank for Early Childhood, including these research briefs --

Achieving Fair Access to Early Education -- Details areas of California that suffer from scarce supply of child care and preschool programs.

Core Principles to Guide Children's Policy -- Articulates the core values and policy priorities that might undergird early care and education programs.

Financing Early Care and Education in California -- Lays out revenue options and strategies for how California might build a firm financing structure.

Paid Family Leave in California -- Reviews how Gov. Gavin Newsom hopes to expand leave, pointing to how the program can fairly aid working-class parents.

Equalizing Children's Access to Early Education -- Reviews the geographic distribution of full and part-day kindergarten programs, asking where are new facilities most needed across California.

Early Childhood Facilities: Local challenges and what's working [with American Institutes for Research].

Expanding and Improving Preschool in New York City

Early Education and Entitlements

Brief 1. Which Communities Benefit from Gains in Supply? October 2014
A first look at differing growth rates in pre-k supply across the city’s diverse neighborhoods, based on preliminary data early in year 1 of the mayor’s initiative. Includes maps showing the distribution of growth tied to the city’s initiative.

Brief 2. Lifting Poor Children or Middling Families? March 2015
A wider analysis of all licensed preschool centers across the city, revealing a somewhat regressive distribution of supply. Includes a survey of pre-k programs not funded under the mayor’s program, revealing significant migration of children, tempering claims of increased access.

Brief 3. Failing to Count Children Entering Catholic, Charter, and Jewish Schools, New York May Fall Short of Universal Pre-K. April 2015
Detailing how the city is under counting 4 year-old children eligible for the mayor's program, suggesting that universal access will not be achieved in the 2015-16 school year. This disadvantages low-income families as they compete with better-heeled parents for rationed pre-k seats.

Brief 4. Almost 19,000 Children Remain Outside Any Public Preschool, Newly Released Data Reveal
Mayor de Blasio has expanded pre-k seats in many low-income neighborhoods. But data released by the city – resulting from the university’s freedom-of-information petition – show that nearly 19,000 four year-olds in poor and working-class neighborhoods remain outside any city-run preschool program. The mayor’s focus on his own initiative has led to falling enrollments in existing child-care and pre-k centers, rather than extending access to additional families.

Brief 5. Year 2 Expansion Yields Few New Seats for Poor Neighborhoods
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ambitious effort to widen children’s access to preschool resulted in just a 1% increase in new seats for young families in the poorest fifth of New York City neighborhoods. Looking across the two-fifths of zip codes with low household incomes, more than 12,000 four-year-olds remain outside any public preschool, Berkeley researchers find.


Ph.D., Stanford University

Curriculum Vitae


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