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Children and Youth

Children, adolescents, and young adults—as well as their families—need every opportunity to grow and develop to become healthy, educated members of society. Children and youth have a multitude of needs that can affect their development and well-being and which influence and define their adult lives. During childhood and adolescence, this population needs to receive appropriate preventive health care and accumulate significant knowledge through their families, friends, and health and education institutions. In order to help assure healthy growth and development, children and youth must create positive interactions with family members and caregivers, teachers, and others as they navigate through critical transition periods and an array of risks and challenges.

NORC’s research in this field promotes overall child well-being and development. In addition to the NORC experts in this subject area, we also work closely with leading nonprofit child research centers like Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago and Child Trends®, to assess the systems that protect and support children and their families, specifically schools, healthcare, foster care, child care infrastructure, and social welfare programs. NORC is experienced in child health insurance coverage, with projects that have supported Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Additionally, NORC has developed an expertise in reaching some of the most vulnerable young people throughout the United States. 

NORC’s pioneering work in longitudinal studies of students provides an outstanding foundation for developing new knowledge about development and achievement. In the early 1960s, NORC sociologist, writer, and Roman Catholic priest Andrew M. Greeley examined the effects of parochial schools, reversing popular wisdom on the subject. More recently, NORC conducted national longitudinal studies on the No Child Left Behind federal education mandate and the Evaluation of Comprehensive School Reform.

In addition to studies of students, NORC has a rich history of conducting research about American youth.  During the 1970s, our landmark National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth (NLSY) followed 12,000 youth as they entered the labor market, through family formation and now into retirement, creating a rich body of data on the experiences of the largest generation since World War II.  In the late 1990’s NORC began a new NLSY cohort of 9,000 youth.  Both the NLS79 and NLS97 are ongoing cohorts which inform labor policy and provide a rich database for researchers in many academic disciplines.

Critical information about especially vulnerable children and youth has been provided by many NORC studies, including

  • The Chafee Foster Care Project—a study that followed youth as they aged out of foster care. 
  • Runaway and Homeless Youth Study—examined and reported on issues related to vulnerable, at-risk youth.  
  • The Making Connections Survey—collected data from residents in poor urban communities in ten cities; data collected about the children living in these households included school readiness measures, engagement in after-school activities, and health status.  
  • The Resident Relocation Study— an interview with adolescent youth about experiences in school, engagement in pro-social activities, and aspirations for the future was included in the most recent round of data collection in this study of residents living in public and subsidized housing. 

NORC studies also generate data essential to keeping young people healthy, with projects such as

  • National Immunization Survey—the field’s largest continuous phone survey—provides valuable information on the immunization rate of young children and adolescents.
  • National Children’s Study— examines the effect of the environment on the growth, development, and health of children across the United States from before birth until age 21.
  • The National Survey of Early Child Care and Education—the first study on the topic in 20 years—brings together multiple organizations to arrive at a fresh and multi-faceted look at today’s childcare supply and demand issues and their affect on children.

The health of young people encompasses not only physical, but emotional health.  Youth, in particular, are learning how to navigate and build respectful and healthy personal and intimate relationships.  NORC studies, such as the NIJ Dating Violence Experiment in NYC and the CDC Dating Matters Experiment Evaluation contribute to our understanding of violence in youth dating and intimate partner relationships, as well as illuminate potential options for early education and intervention in this area.

Today, our educational expertise and advanced capabilities are enriched by economic, healthcare, public health, and criminal justice interdisciplinary work. NORC continues to play an invaluable role in helping organizations understand how, why, and when things can go right to promote health and development, but also how things can go wrong, with studies on runaway youth, dating violence, gun violence, nicotine dependence, obesity, and alcohol risk perceptions.

Specific areas of expertise include:

  • Child Protection
  • Foster Care
  • Adoption

Representative Projects

Impact Evaluation of USAID 'Yes Youth Can!' - Kenya Project.  More

Multi-Site Evaluation of Foster Youth Programs.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) Children’s Bureau has contracted with the Urban Institute and its partners—the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago and NORC—to conduct an evaluation of selected programs funded through the John Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (CFCIP). More

State-specific Design Parameters for Designing Better Evaluation Studies. This IES-funded project seeks to use State Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) to estimate variance components and intraclass correlations for use in multi-level study designs in education.  Having plausible values of intraclass correlations is essential to planning how many schools and students are needed for an evaluation design.  This project is a continuation of efforts by Hedges and Hedberg to provide guidance on these parameters to the research community. Whereas their previous work used national probability samples to estimate these parameters, the current project uses state data. More

Surveillance of Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention (NEOP) Data. NORC was awarded a subcontract from the California Department of Public Health to conduct the Surveillance of NEOP Data project, which is a component of a four-year plan to evaluate ongoing and new interventions that address the obesity epidemic in California. Three survey instruments will be used to establish baseline measures for mothers, teenagers, and children from households participating in the USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), known in California as CalFresh.

Youth Villages Transitional Living Follow up Survey. ​MDRC selected NORC to carry out data collection in support of an evaluation of Youth Villages Transitional Living programs in Tennessee.  The study includes a survey of youth who are transitioning out of foster and other state care to determine whether participation in the Youth Villages Transitional Living program is associated with better outcomes on the path to adulthood than for youth who do not participate in the program.  Approximately 1200 eligible former foster youth were randomized into treatment or control groups for participation in the program and evaluation. These youth were contacted by NORC interviewers to participate in the survey, which took place 12 months after baseline, from October 2011 through December 2013.  With a final response rate of over 85% in both treatment and control groups, NORC surpassed expectations for locating and interviewing this hard-to-reach population. More

See all Children and Youth projects


Sparks: The NORC Blog Carrie Markovitz: A Research Mom’s Perspective on Preschool: Lessons Learned from the Evaluation of the Minnesota Reading Corps PreK Program More
Posted: 4.21.2015 10:50AM
News Star Tribune: NORC evaluated the Minnesota Reading Corps, and looked at how young children learn to read More
Posted: 4.2.2015 12:23PM
Sparks: The NORC Blog Carrie Markovitz: New Evaluation Shows AmeriCorps Members Help Close the Achievement Gap More
Posted: 3.31.2015 12:23PM
News The Washington Post: The Impact and Process Evaluation of the Minnesota Reading Corps Program gives insight into how young readers may benefit from volunteers More
Posted: 3.30.2015 3:38PM
News The Los Angeles Times: The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth delves in to the long term results of bullying More
Posted: 8.5.2013 4:32PM


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