Bruce Fuller

Bruce Fuller, a sociologist, delves into how institutions, large and small, attempt to lift the learning and growth of children, including why they often fall short.

This implicates surrounding ideologies and politics that move organizations to do better. His new book -- When Schools Work-- delves into why student achievement climbed for nearly two decades in Los Angeles, and how a colorful quilt of civic activists powered a variety of reforms. The rise of cultural and political pluralism sparked a variety of initiatives over the past quarter-century, some that stuck while did not. See a concise review by Jay Mathews at the Washington Post of this volume, building from years of field work in L.A. with Berkeley graduate students.

Fuller often focuses on how the social organization of schools or families advance the well-being of young children. Research in California and New York City asks whether the spread of preschool acts to narrow or reinforce disparities in children's early learning. His earlier book, Standardized Childhood, reports on the four-century old debate over how to nurture and teach young children in modernizing societies.

An earlier 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 trends seen across differing sectors of the economy and the state.

Fuller teaches in education policy and the sociology of organizations. 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

     Recent popular essays

  • "Democrats cede moral ground in education to conservatives," Washington Post, 2022.
  • "Is the common school in America dying? Washington Post, 2022.
  • With Pedro Noguera, "Memo to Los Angeles schools chief, focus on results," EdSource, 2022.
  • "Killing the child tax credit: Middle-tax hike in disguise." The Hill, 2021.
  • "Biden's pre-k plan alone won't achieve lasting gains for poor children." Washington Post, 2021.
  • "To integrate schools, Biden should start with pre-k." Chicago Tribune, 2021.
  • "Biden's stimulus: A radical experiment for America's families." Newsweek, 2021.
  • "The starts aligned in California budget deal, but hurdles remain for early education. EdSource, 2021
  • "Nurturing children in China," lecture for Peking University, 2020. Mandarin translation available.
  • "Joe Biden thinks school segregation is nearly unsolvable..." Los Angeles Times, 2019.
  • "The verdict on charter schools?" Atlantic Monthly. 2015.


  • Fuller (2022) 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, Bein, Bridges, Halfon, Jung, Rabe-Hesketh, & Kuo (2010). Maternal practices that influence Hispanic infants' health and cognitive growth. Pediatrics.
  • 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.
  • 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

Area 2. Public Policy and Institutional Change

     Popular Essays

  • "A more caring economy for a post-pandemic America." San Francisco Chronicle, May 2020.
  • "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)

  • Lee, Fuller & Rabe-Hesketh (2021). How finance reform may alter teacher and school quality: California's $23 billion initiative. American Educational Research Journal.
  • Lee and Fuller (2022). Does progressive finance alter school organizations and raise achievement: The case of Los Angeles. Educational Policy.
  • Fuller (2022). Neoliberalism in decline? New pluralists recast schools in Los Angeles. Educational Policy.
  • 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..
  • 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.
  • 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

Children's development

Faculty Cluster - Graduate School of Education

Policy, Politics, and Leadership

Building Child and Family Policy

Professor Fuller's research team conducts research that informs fellow scholars, policy analysts, and practitioners. This work recently focuses on the growth and quality of preschool and early education programs in California and New York. Work from the Berkeley Children's Forum includes --

Advancing Universal Transitional Kindergarten, California -- with Abigail Slovick and the California School Boards Association, 2022.

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

Field work in New York City

  • 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.
  • Almost 19,000 Children Remain Outside Any Public Preschool, Newly Released Data Reveal. 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.
  • Expansion Yields Few New Seats for Poor Neighborhoods. The city'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.


PhD, Stanford University

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