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Charles Tolbert, B.A., M.A., Ph.D. - Baylor University . Baylor, TX, US

Charles Tolbert, B.A., M.A., Ph.D. Charles Tolbert, B.A., M.A., Ph.D.

Professor of Sociology | Baylor University


Dr. Tolbert's areas of research include social stratification, social demography, rural sociology and quantitative applications.



Charles Tolbert, B.A., M.A., Ph.D. Publication Charles Tolbert, B.A., M.A., Ph.D. Publication Charles Tolbert, B.A., M.A., Ph.D. Publication Charles Tolbert, B.A., M.A., Ph.D. Publication






Charles M. Tolbert, Ph.D., is a professor in the sociology department in the College of Arts & Sciences at Baylor University. He also is a senior research scientist at Baylor University's Center for Community Research and Development and is a research associate with special sworn status at the Center for Economic Studies of the U.S. Bureau of the Census.

Tolbert specializes in studies of social stratification, social demography, rural sociology and social research methods. His research has been recognized in Journal of Applied Social Sciences, Rural Sociology, Social Justice, Social Science Quarterly, American Sociological Review and other notable publications in the field.

After receiving a bachelor's and master's in sociology from Baylor University, Tolbert earned a Ph.D. at the University of Georgia. He taught and conducted research at Emory University, Florida State University and Louisiana State University before coming to Baylor University in 2000.

Industry Expertise (2)



Areas of Expertise (6)

Small Businesses and Employee Loyalty

Restructuring Financial Institutions in Rural/Non-Metro America

Social Stratification

Social Demography

Rural Sociology

Quantitative Applications

Education (3)

University Of Georgia: Ph.D., Sociology

Baylor University: M.A., Sociology

Baylor University: B.A., Sociology

Affiliations (1)

  • Journal of Rural Social Sciences

Media Appearances (5)

COVID-19 slammed small businesses — but a surprising number are thriving

Los Angeles Times  online


Baylor sociologist Charles Tolbert, Ph.D., is quoted in this story about the effect of COVID-19 on small businesses.

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With Stage Stores closure, a staple leaves rural communities

Houston Chronicle  online


Charles Tolbert II, Ph.D., professor of sociology at Baylor who specializes in rural communities, is quoted in this article about the closure of Stage Stores and its sibling brands — Gordmans, Bealls and Palais Royal — that were for decades staples of rural communities across the country.

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AgriLife Extension economist leads rural military entrepreneurship study

The Eagle (Bryan/College Station)  online


Charles Tolbert, Ph.D., professor of sociology in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences, is among a team of researchers who have received a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to create guidelines to better assist rural military veteran business owners. Tolbert will join fellow researchers Craig Carpenter, a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economist, and Rick Peterson, who leads AgriLife Extension’s AgriAbility Program.

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Baylor Sociologist's Article Named To Top 10 List

Baylor Media Communications  online


An article written by Dr. Charles Tolbert II, professor and chair of sociology and anthropology at Baylor University, has been selected as one of the 10 most influential articles ever in this area of sociology by the American Sociological Association's Section on Organizations, Occupations and Work. The article, "The Structure of Economic Segmentation: A Dual Economy Approach," was published in 1980 in The American Journal of Sociology. While he was a graduate student at the University of Georgia, Tolbert co-authored the paper with Patrick Horan and E.M. Beck.

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BU Sociology Chair 'The Man With The Badge' At The U.S. Census Bureau

Baylor Media Communications  online


He has a security clearance, uses passwords and a building access code and is unable to reveal much about his work, but Baylor sociology and anthropology chair Charles Tolbert is not moonlighting as a spy for the CIA. Dr. Tolbert goes through this kind of security process because he is one of a few academics who regularly travels to the U.S. Census Bureau in Washington, D.C., to view confidential research data from the economic and population censuses that will never be made public. This is work that can only be done at the bureau or at one of five regional data centers, none of which is located anywhere near Texas.

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Articles (4)

American Civic Community Over Space and Time

Spatial Demography Book Series

2016 The civic community perspective focuses on important community organizations such as locally oriented business establishments, civic organizations, associations, churches, and the body politic. These critical institutions are thought to benefit communities through an enhanced quality of life, more civic engagement by the citizenry, and a strong capacity for local problem solving. This work has been largely cross-sectional and aspatial. The line of work has had limited utility in addressing themes like Putnam’s Bowling Alone hypothesis that social capital is in decline. In the present work, we address both temporal and spatial trends in the U.S. since 1980. We find considerable variation across time and space that cast doubt on notions of a sweeping secular decline in American social capital.

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Small, local, and loyal: How firm attributes affect workers’ organizational commitment

Local Economy: The Journal of the Local Economy Policy Unit

2014 We explore how firm size and local ownership influence employees’ organizational commitment. Using a civic community perspective, we hypothesize that small and locally owned businesses engender more employee loyalty in a representative national sample of workers. That hypothesis is supported for all workers and is most clearly evident in a subsample of rural workers. Our results show that working at small businesses and locally owned businesses significantly increases an employee’s organizational commitment. Furthermore, individuals who work at small businesses that are also locally owned are found to have the highest level of organizational commitment. Our study provides insight into how structural elements of an organization, such as small businesses and locally owned businesses, are associated with an improved quality of life and a more robust civil society. Moreover, this paper highlights the need for further research on how structural attributes of businesses affect the attitudes and opinions of workers.

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College Graduates, Local Retailers, and Community Belonging in the United States

Sociological Spectrum

2014 How do communities retain their highly educated residents? Do local retailers play a role? This study addresses these questions using confidential U.S. census data on locally-oriented retail employment and county-level public-use files. Hierarchical linear modeling is employed to test hypotheses derived from prior research on civic community and migration. The results confirm that state-level local retail employment buffers the extent to which county-level college graduation is associated with county nonmigration. This finding is consistent with civic community theory, suggesting that locally-oriented retailers are a valuable resource for promoting residential stability.

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Article Restructuring of the Financial Industry: The Disappearance of Locally Owned Traditional Financial Services in Rural America

Rural Sociology

2014 Restructuring in the financial services industry has altered the relationship between small business owners and capital. In the past small businesses have relied on relational, or soft data, lending from locally owned banks for capital. The proliferation of absentee-owned local branch networks brought standardized practices, thus eliminating the autonomy of local loan officers to utilize soft data in loan decisions. In this article we examine the changes in the percentage of traditional financial services that are locally owned in three county types: metropolitan, micropolitan, and noncore. We utilize the Longitudinal Business Database at the U.S. Census Bureau Center for Economic Studies. We examine changes in local ownership of traditional financial services between 1976 and 2007. We find that the rate of decline of local ownership has been greatest in the noncore (most rural) counties. We also explore to what extent these patterns are related to the emergence of alternative financial services during the same period. We find that such alternative services are growing in all three county types, but at rates not significantly different than the population growth for these county types. We supplement our analysis with data from qualitative interviews with small business owners throughout rural Texas. We conclude with a discussion of implications and plans for future research.

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