Emily Hannum

Professor | Sociology

Emily Hannum is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research interests are poverty and child welfare, social stratification, and sociology of education.

Current projects in China include studies of childhood poverty and inequality and the impact of large-scale school consolidations on educational attainment. She is also working on comparative analyses of school performance, with attention to disparities associated with family separation, family background, and gender.

Recent publications include “Education in East Asian Societies: Postwar Expansion and the Evolution of Inequality” (2019, Annual Review of Sociology, with Hiroshi Ishida, Hyunjoon Park, and Tony Tam); “Home, School, and Community Deprivations: A Multi-Context Approach to Childhood Poverty in China” (2019, Journal of Contemporary China, with Weiwei Hu and Albert Park); “Differences at the Extremes? Gender, National Contexts, and Math Performance in Latin America” (2020, American Educational Research Journal, with Ran Liu and Andrea Alvarado-Urbina); and “Estimating the Effects of Educational System Consolidation: The Case of China’s Rural School Closure Initiative” (forthcoming, Economic Development and Cultural Change, with Xiaoying Liu and Fan Wang).

Selected Publications

Xiaoying LiuJere R. BehrmanEmily HannumFan WangQingguo Zhao

(2021). “Same environment, stratified impacts? Air pollution, extreme temperatures, and birth weight in Southeast China,”  SSRN.

Ambient air pollution and extreme temperatures have been associated in a number of settings with adverse birth outcomes. However, some newborns may be more vulnerable than others. First, the pathway from ambient conditions to adverse birth outcomes could vary according to indicators of socioeconomic status such as maternal education. For example, less-educated mothers may be more vulnerable than more-educated mothers if they lack access to living, work, transportation, and leisure spaces with indoor air filtration and temperature regulation, or if they lack knowledge of or resources for mitigation strategies. Second, overall effect modifications associaed with maternal education may mask another source of heterogeneity: babies’ underlying innate health. Protective effects of maternal education may be more pronounced for the most physically vulnerable babies.

Linking 54,828 singleton live birth records from a district in Guangzhou, China to ambient air pollution (PM10 and a composite measure) and extreme temperature data, we test whether, overall, maternal education is an “effect modifier” in the relationships between ambient air pollution, extreme temperature, and birth weight. Via conditional quantile regressions, we then test for effect heterogeneity according to the underlying physical vulnerability of babies–those further to the left in the conditional distribution of birth weight–after conditioning on other confounders. Results show that the protection associated with a college-educated mother with respect to pollution and extreme heat is substantial: up to 0.31 standard deviations of birth weight. Importantly, this protection is amplified under more extreme ambient conditions and for physically vulnerable infants, after conditioning on other confounders.

Emily HannumXiaoying LiuFan Wang

(April 2020). Estimating the Effects of Educational System Contraction: The Case of China’s Rural School Closure Initiative. Economic Development and Cultural Change.

Global trends of fertility decline, population aging, and rural outmigration are creating pressures to consolidate school systems, with the rationale that economies of scale will enable higher quality education to be delivered in an efficient manner, despite longer travel distances for students. Yet, few studies have considered the implications of system consolidation for educational access and inequality, outside of the context of developed countries.

We estimate the impact of educational infrastructure consolidation on educational attainment using the case of China’s rural primary school closure policies in the early 2000s. We use data from a large household survey covering 728 villages in 7 provinces, and exploit variation in villages’ year of school closure and children’s ages at closure to identify the causal impact of school closure.

For girls exposed to closure during their primary school ages, we find an average decrease of 0.60 years of schooling by 2011, when children were, on average, 17 years old. Negative effects strengthen with time since closure. For boys, there is no corresponding significant effect. Different effects by gender may be related to the greater sensitivity of girls’ enrollment to distance and greater responsiveness of boys’ enrollment to quality

Ran LiuAndrea Alvarado-UrbinaEmily Hannum

(September 2019). Differences at the Extremes? Gender, National Contexts, and Math Performance in Latin America. American Educational Research Journal, 57(3), 1290-1322. 

Studies of gender disparities in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) performance have generally focused on average differences. However, the extremes could also be important because disparities at the top may shape stratification in access to STEM careers, while disparities at the bottom can shape stratification in dropout.

This article investigates determinants of gender disparities in math across the performance distribution in Latin American countries, where there is a persistent boys’ advantage in STEM performance. Findings reveal disparate national patterns in gender gaps across the performance distribution. Furthermore, while certain national characteristics are linked to gender gaps at the low- and middle-ranges of the performance distribution, female representation in education is the only characteristic associated with a reduced gender gap at the top level.