Emer Smyth is a Research Professor at the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI). She is Principal Investigator of Growing Up in Ireland (GUI), leads on a research programme with DCEDIY using GUI data, and is joint research area coordinator for education. Her main research interests centre on education, child wellbeing, school to work transitions, gender and comparative methodology.
She has conducted a number of studies on the effects of schooling contexts on student outcomes, including Do Schools Differ? She led the Post-Primary Longitudinal Study (PPLS), which followed a cohort of young people from the first year of second-level education onwards. This study was the first of its kind in the Irish context, and yielded insights into important processes such as the transition to second-level education, the factors influencing examination performance, the impact of ability grouping, and gender and social differentiation in educational outcomes.
Her work has increasingly adopted a broader view of education, looking at the way in which out-of-school activities influence within-school learning and the impact of school processes on broader wellbeing, including socioemotional difficulties, anti-social behaviour and health behaviour. She has used GUI data to write reports and journal articles on youth mental health in the wake of the pandemic, fathers and child outcomes, the transition into primary school, and arts and cultural participation among children and young people, among other topics.
Educational inequality has been an important focus of her research, with work on an evaluation of the Youthreach programme, a review of the School Completion Programme and the evaluation of the DEIS programme. She is currently involved in the European PIONEERED project which takes a multilevel, multidimensional approach to analysing educational inequality.