How Politics, Poverty, and Social Policy Implementation Shape Racial Inequality in Child Development in the Rural South

How do the organizational practices of public welfare agencies support or undermine family processes and adolescent development in poor rural communities?

Carolyn Barnes will investigate how the distinctive features of rural southern communities influence the organizational practices of local public welfare agencies, as well as how these practices alleviate or contribute to racial inequality in poor rural communities and how experiences with public welfare agencies shape family processes and adolescent development outcomes. Barnes will conduct community and organizational ethnography to develop theory to explain how local power structures influence policy implementation. She will also examine how well rural counties perform on federal and state performance indicators when compared to urban counties and look at variation in program use within rural counties and across rural and urban counties over two years. Barnes will extend her expertise in ethnography and social policy to develop new expertise in theories of child development, as well as new methodological skills in mixed methods and quantitative analysis. Her mentors are Linda Burton, James B. Duke Professor of Sociology at Duke University and a leading ethnographer in the area of poverty and family processes, and Lynne Vernon-Feagans, Senior Research Scientist at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute and a leading expert in child development and rural poverty.

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