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Res Soc Stratif Mobil. 2012 Mar;30(1):97-112.

Differences between Hispanic and Non-Hispanic Families in Social Capital and Child Development: First-Year Findings from an Experimental Study.

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1
University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Abstract

Disadvantages faced by Hispanic children in the U.S., compared to non-Hispanic Whites, have been widely reported. Economic differences account for some of the gaps, but the social isolation of Hispanic families also serves as a barrier to children's success. Whereas Hispanic families tend to have strong kinship networks, their social ties often do not encompass the school and other authority systems. As a result, Hispanic families may have less access to social capital, that is, relations of trust and shared expectations that foster the flow of relevant information and support social norms that contribute to children's academic and social development. To study the role of social capital in child development, we embarked on a school-randomized trial in two cities with large Hispanic populations: San Antonio, Texas, and Phoenix, Arizona. In this paper, we report on first-year data from what will be a three-year longitudinal study, including 24 of an eventual 52 schools and about 1,300 of what will be a sample of over 3,000 children. We aimed to manipulate social capital through an intervention called Families and Schools Together (FAST), a multi-family after-school program that enhances relations among families, between parents and schools, and between parents and children through a sequence of structured activities over 8 weekly sessions. In the first year, 12 schools were randomly assigned to participate in FAST, and 12 served as controls. Data come from district administrative records, surveys of parents prior to FAST, and surveys of parents and teachers immediately after FAST. Surveys prior to FAST confirm that Hispanic parents have less extensive parent-school networks compared to non-Hispanic Whites. Comparisons of school means on post-FAST surveys indicate that parents in FAST schools experience more extensive social networks than those in control schools, but the differences are much more apparent in Phoenix than in San Antonio. Similarly, a pattern of better behavioral outcomes for children in FAST schools is evident in Phoenix but not San Antonio. Individual-level comparisons suggest that for some outcomes, effects may be larger for non-Hispanic Whites than for Hispanics, which would undermine potential contributions to reducing inequality.

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