Bruce Fuller

Bruce Fuller, a sociologist, delves into how institutions, large and small, attempt to lift the learning and well-being of children. He focuses at times 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.

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, others which did not. See a concise review by Jay Mathews at the Washington Post of this volume, which built from years of empirical work in L.A. with Berkeley graduate students.

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 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.

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

  • "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 'stars aligned' in budget deal, but hurdles remain for early education. EdSource, 2021
  • "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, 2020.
  • "The segregation of Latino children: The bad, and dash of good, news." Washington Post, 2019.


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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)

  • 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 Children's Forum, including these research briefs --

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.

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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