Mario L. Small, Ph.D., is Grafstein Family Professor at Harvard University. Author of numerous award-winning books and articles on urban poverty, support networks, qualitative and mixed methods, and a host of other topics, Small is currently working to transform how social scientists use newly available forms of data to understand urban poverty and writing a book on how actors mobilize their networks when seeking social support. CV
Behavioral economics and social networks Small's new Social Networks paper, "Because They Were There," examines how people decide whom to turn to for support. It documents that people often don't deliberate on the matter, making spontaneous decisions that do not conform to expectations of rationality.
The problem with urban ethnography Small's new City and Community paper, "De-Exoticizing Ghetto Poverty," discusses stereotyping and sensationalism in current research on low-income minority populations. “Violence sells copy, and no ethnographer can feign ignorance of that fact.”
People replace confidants quickly in new contexts Small's new Social Networks paper examines who graduate students trust with important matters over their first year. "The core discussion network changes remarkably quickly... and it appears to do so because the obligations people face and the routine activities they engage in are transformed by new institutional environments." Confidants are fickle.
The problem with the "culture of poverty" The Society Pages publishes roundtable with Small's commentary on the "culture of poverty." The long-debunked culture of poverty model should have been replaced by alternative models of culture and behavior. "The fact that anyone believes that studying culture means rehashing that old idea shows how far we need to go."
Don't think of a ghetto The Chronicle Review publishes Small's "No Two Ghettos Are Alike." Our most prominent picture of what ghettos look like has been built on a special case--an important, historic, and interesting one, but a single case nonetheless. Ghettos in Chicago and New York are remarkably different.
Do parents care enough about school? The New York Times publishes Small's Room for Debate column on the role of parents in schools. "To argue that if only parents became involved our children would rise from the academic doldrums is to believe that a modern, complex institution with multiple constituents who have independent interests can be transformed by a mere attitude change on the part of one group."
How childcare centers build social capital The Huffington Post publishes a column based on Small's research on networks among mothers of children in New York City daycare centers. "As long as people continue to find the need to attend church, to sign up for sports teams, or to enroll their kids in daycare, they will have much of what is needed to keep the Internet from making them lonely."