Dr Gill Main

Dr Gill Main


I have worked at the University since 2015, initially as an Academic Fellow in Youth People and Precarity, then as an Associate Professor in Childhood Studies, before becoming Professor of Childhood, Youth and Social Justice in 2021. My work focuses on child poverty and social exclusion, and specifically centring the expertise of children, young people and parents who have experienced poverty in how we understand, measure and address it. I am interested in how we disrupt hierarchies of knowledge, and how we can make space for experiential, policy, practice and academic knowledge to ‘meet’ on an equal footing. I have worked on a range of projects during my time at Leeds, detailed below. Before coming to Leeds, I worked at the Social Policy Research Centre, University of York on a range of national and international projects focusing on child poverty and social exclusion, including the 2012 UK Poverty and Social Exclusion Study, the Children's Worlds study, and The Children's Society Well-being Research Programme.


  • Director of Research and Innovation

Research interests

My research focuses on child poverty, social exclusion, and subjective well-being.  I am particularly interested in children’s and families’ own perspectives on child poverty, and how listening to children and families can help us to better understand and address child poverty.

I have conducted research in partnership with a range of civil society and public sector organisations, including All Together in Dignity Fourth World, UNICEF Office of Research-Innocenti, the End Child Poverty Coalition, The Children’s Society, the Child Poverty Action Group, and Leeds City Council.  Most of my research draws on mixed methods, with a strong preference for participatory approaches. I am experienced in combining surveys with interviews, focus groups, and observations.  I am particularly interested in survey research with children, and in the use of longitudinal mixed methods and participatory approaches bridging qualitative and quantitative methodologies.

Current research projects

I am PI on the Leeds City Council ‘Barriers to Attendance’ project, designed to identify and address poverty-related barriers to school attendance, attainment and achievement in Leeds secondary schools.

I am Partner Investigator on the Australian Research Council project, ‘Social Exclusion in Adolescence: Risks, assets, experiences and policy action'.

I am Co-Investigator on the Nuffield Foundation project, ‘Understanding Family and Community Vulnerabilities in the Transition to Net Zero’.

Previous research projects

I was PI on Fair Shares and Families, an ESRC-funded project run in partnership with The Children’s Society and Leeds City Council Children and Families Services. This research investigates the links between child poverty and subjective well-being, with a focus on how children and families understand and negotiate the sharing of family resources.

<iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/293149281" width="600" height="360" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

An animation based on some of the findings from the Fair Shares and Families project

  • PI on A Different Take, funded by the Leeds Social Sciences Impact Acceleration Account in association with the ESRC and run in partnership with the Child Poverty Action Group and Leeds City Council Children and Families Services. This project aims to promote the voices of children, young people and families with direct experience of poverty to actors in policy, practice and media settings. 
    <iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/353423616?h=02d493b806" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; fullscreen; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p><a href="https://vimeo.com/353423616">More snakes than ladders</a> from <a href="https://vimeo.com/user101760128">Gill Main</a> on <a href="https://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a>.</p>

    A video made with all the participants in our A Different Take Leeds panel.

  • Partner Investigator on Deprivation and Exclusion among Young People, funded by the Australian Research Council. This project replicates my doctoral research – which developed and tested a child-derived measure of child deprivation - in New South Wales.

Professional activities

  • I sit on the Leeds City Council Child Poverty Impact Board, and support its work in creating child- and family-centric interventions to support children and families in poverty.
  • I sit on the Child Poverty Action Group Policy Committee, contributing to setting the direction of the organisation’s responses to anti-poverty policy.
  • I regularly review articles for a wide range of journals, including Child Indicators Research, Children and Youth Services Review, Social Indicators Research, the Journal of Social Policy, and Environment and Planning A.
<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://essl.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>

Student education

I teach on the BA Childhood Studies and MA Childhood Studies.  I am module leader for the cross- programme Final Year Project module and the MA module, Child Poverty and Well-Being. My teaching relates to child poverty and well-being; children’s rights and social justice; research design and methodology; and participatory, quantitative and mixed research methods.

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>The school welcomes enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>