I am a Professor Emeritus, Division of Applied Social Science,  University of Missouri-Columbia and also serve as research consultant on survey research projects in rural regions of United States, Russia, Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

An overriding interest throughout my research and writing has been to identify how structural arrangements, both informal and formal, can support sustainable communities and ways for divergent communities to negotiate compromise solutions to their differences.  See, for example, D. J. O’Brien (2018), “Institutional Adjustment to Globalization to Increase Religious Tolerance,” The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society8(2): 27-42. My most recent publication is, Defining Public Goods: An Institutional Approach to Community-Building and Negotiating Inter-Community Conflict (Edward Elgar, Expected publication date: July 2021).

My early research examined  grassroots efforts to organize urban neighborhoods to improve residents’ quality of life (D. J. O’Brien, Neighborhood Organization & Interest Group Processes, Princeton University Press, 1975, 2016) .  This was followed by a long-term study, with Stephen Fugita,  of Japanese Americans’ inter-generational ethnic community attachment and assimilation into the larger multi-ethnic communities in they live (S. S. Fugita and D. J. O’Brien, Japanese American Ethnicity: The Persistence of Community, University of Washington Press, 1991).  Beginning in 1989, shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union,  I began working with my Russian colleague, Valery Patsiorkovsky, later joined by Stephen Wegren in the mid-nineteen nineties, on sample surveys of Russian rural household adaptation to market reforms [D.  J. O’Brien & V. V. Patsiorkovsky, Measuring Social and Economic Change in Rural Russia: Surveys from 1991 to 2003  Lexington Press, 2006; D. J. O’Brien and V. V. Patsiorkovsky; D. J. O’Brien and V. V. Patsiorkovsky (2020), “Regime Change in Post-Soviet Russia: A Bottom-Up View from the Countryside.” Pp. 41-64 in R. A. Remington and R. K. Evanson, eds., Globalization and Regime Change: Lessons from the New Russia and the New Europe. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield].  I have also published extensively on community development issues in rural Midwestern American communities [D. J. O’Brien, A. Raedeke & E. W. Hassinger (1998), “The Social Networks of Leaders in More and Less Viable Communities Six Years Later,” Rural Sociology 62:109-127] and have been part of a number of multi-disciplinary USAID projects, led by Land O’ Lakes International Development, on dairy cooperative development among small-holder farmers in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda (D. J. O’Brien and M. L. Cook (2016),  “Smallholder Dairy Entities in East Africa: Challenges and Opportunities in J. Bijman, J. Schuurman and R. Muradian (eds), Cooperatives, Economic Democratization and Rural Development (Camberley  Surrey, UK: Edward Elgar.

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