Kess Ballentine

Kess Ballentine

Assistant Professor

Expert in low-paid labor conditions and work-family strain

 5447 Woodward, Rm 055

 By appointment

Kess Ballentine


Kess Ballentine, MA, MSW, PhD serves as an Assistant Professor. Ballentine’s research and practice are inspired by her former work in research and community. Prior to earning her doctorate, she worked as an elementary special educator, as well as on an NIMH-funded study of group home care for children with mental health and behavioral disorders. Ballentine has also worked as a domestic violence advocate and a community program developer. Through her practice, she has gained insight into the fields of education, mental health, and child welfare and is now applying this knowledge as an engaged researcher on efforts to improve family and child well-being among lower-income families.

Ballentine’s current research works to uncover what happens to lower income families after a labor win. Most research on workplace policies focus on high-income workers and the research on lower-income workers focuses mostly on the most exploitive jobs in the labor market. Her research works to bridge the gap in knowledge between these groups - what happens when lower-income workers with relatively good jobs get a labor win? How does working in these conditions affect their parenting and their interactions with child-serving systems like schools or child welfare? What role do workplace policies and practices play in the lives of parents earning lower incomes?

Ballentine is passionate about community impact and teaching. She hopes to work with local community partners in Detroit and use her research skills to contribute to the labor movement and other advocacy, working to improve child and family well-being. She is also committed to expanding diversity in social work practice and leadership through teaching and supporting historically and systematically excluded students. In her free time, Ballentine enjoys hiking, quilting, and spending time with her husband, cats, and rabbits.

Curriculum Vitae

Google Scholar


Teaching Interests

  • Human Rights & Social Justice
  • Social Welfare Policy
  • Social Work & Social Welfare History
  • Qualitative Research

Areas of Expertise


  • Parents of young children
  • Lower income workers
  • Elementary-age youth
  • Children and adults with disabilities


  • Qualitative analysis & interviewing
  • Longitudinal research design, data collection and analysis
  • Mixed methods research


  • Poverty, inequality, and social policy
  • Parenting & parent engagement in social systems
  • Work-family strain
  • Labor
  • Feminist Theory & Feminist Social Work
  • Power & Oppression

← Return to listing