Expertise: stratification/inequality, education, quantitative methods, treatment effect heterogeneity, data visualization


Paul Hanselman studies educational inequalities in schools – where they come from, and what we can do about them. He’s particularly interested in understanding how local contexts shape educators’ and students’ experiences, and their implications for economic, racial, and gender disparities.

A focus of this research is on how we can change social dynamics in school and how these impacts vary across different types of school. Recently, he has been studying brief social psychological interventions that change how students think about themselves and their social environment with the goal of removing barriers to academic success. One current project is a nationally representative experimental test of promoting a growth mindset, the notion that abilities are malleable and can be developed over time. A growth mindset may be beneficial for adolescents who are struggling during the transition to high school, and Hanselman’s work is testing how these individual impacts differ in different types of schools.

Hanselman also conducts research describing social background disparities in access to learning opportunities in school, such as access to effective teachers or advanced coursework. For instance, one current project focuses on access to advanced middle school mathematics courses in California. State records reveal that the number of students taking Algebra by eighth grade has doubled in the past 15 years, but this has led to little change in unequal access to these opportunities related to social background. Ongoing work is tracing the ultimate implications of these disparities.

His work has been funded by the Spencer Foundation and WT Grant Foundation, and he’s published findings in Social Forces, the Journal of Educational Psychology, the American Educational Research Journal, Sociology of Education, and others.

UCI is a return stop for Hanselman who was here in 2014-16 as a postdoctoral scholar in the School of Education where he worked under professor Greg Duncan. For the past year, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin. He returns to UCI as part of a high impact hire group which draws together faculty from across the university to work on education interventions for disadvantaged children. Hanselman is excited to bring the sociological perspective on education to the group to ultimately improve social inequalities. 


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