Director, Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences Seminar, Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy
Lecturer, Department of Sociology
Past Research: Weiss’ past research has been concentrated around two inter-related themes. First is the issue of how institutions shape children’s and adolescents’ development. Second is how family structures and parenting shape youth development, particularly in late adolescence and into adulthood. Intertwined within these is the use of innovative methodologies to examine causal effects of social policies and influences. Two recently published papers (one with Bearman, another with Lindsay Kipnes) examine how school structures – specifically the configuration of particular grades in distinct types of schools, such as middle schools or K-8 schools – influence children’s academic performance and well-being. Results show that much of the policy focus on changing grade configurations of schools is likely to yield little tangible benefit for students in these schools.
Present Research: One strain of Weiss’ current research (with Jennifer Hill) utilizes advances in statistical methodology to examine the causal effects of grade retention on students’ success in school. With funding from the National Science Foundation and the Smith-Richardson Foundation, results from these projects suggest that the effects of retention are more mixed and context-dependent than is widely believed. A second theme of current research focuses on the effects of the urban built environment on obesity. With this NIH-funded research, Weiss is part of a research team with a number of papers and projects examining how specific facets of urban life, such as the food environment and access to parks, shapes weight and risk of overweight and obesity. A third strain of research examines how parenting practices and changes in family structure influence adolescents’ and children’s well-being over the life course, particularly at the emerging adulthood phase of life.
Future Research: In his future work, Weiss will continue to examine how school and other contexts shape adolescent well-being, particularly their success in school. He is also beginning to examine the interplay between the educational and justice systems, particularly the ways in which experience with the juvenile justice system negatively influences educational trajectories. A second new research project (with Jennifer Manly and Maria Glymour) examines the longer-term consequences of schooling and school resources by linking data on the quality of education that a group of elders experienced in their youth and modeling these elders’ cognitive test performance as a function of their schooling. Although this work is in a preliminary stage, we find strong and robust effects of school quality measures, such as average measure of student-teacher ratio, on cognitive performance.
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