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Consumer at check out counter NORC's work supplies insight for informed decisions. Open work areas encourage collaboration
Research Scientist Office in Bethesda A work session in NORC's offices
Writing on the whiteboard, NORC Bethesda office


Our understanding and expectations of lifetime employment—what a career can or should be—is evolving rapidly.  At the same time, increasing global competition and economic fluctuation and crisis complicate the dynamic between costs and wages and individual access to essential goods and services.

NORC’s economic research has sought to capture diverse labor experiences and the trajectories of careers over time, yielding a wealth of data critical to understanding local economies as well as national and global economic stability. In addition to labor, this research encompasses a broad range of studies in education, training, consumption, personal success, small business, family finances, and more. As early as World War II, NORC helped assess the impact of government campaigns, such as rationing and recycling, on American households. NORC is also home to the triennial Federal Reserve Board’s Consumer Finance Survey, one of the best and only sources of information on the financial circumstances of U.S. households. In fact, it was researchers at NORC who helped establish the now widely accepted concept of the “economics of family.” 

The General Social Survey (GSS), NORC’s flagship survey and one of its longest running projects, is entering its fourth decade. One of the most frequently cited sources of social science information, the GSS provides an ongoing, cross-disciplinary view of American society and culture, including educational opportunities and vocation. The National Longitudinal Studies, launched by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the 1960s, began as an exploration into why increasing numbers of men were leaving the work force before retirement. It has since evolved—with the addition of women and their biological offspring—into an exceptionally rich mine of labor, family, and financial insights across generations. Drawing from this work, NORC helped establish one of the most prominent collections of data on education, labor, and their economic outcomes: the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1979 and 1997.

Using telephone, in-person and computer-assisted interviews, NORC has achieved a high response rate and expertise with these longitudinal survey instruments. NORC also draws from landmark studies in its other focus areas—particularly education—to create new knowledge about the impact of economic conditions, policies and programs.
Specific areas of expertise include:

Representative Projects

Birth Cohort Evaluation to Advance Screening and Testing for Hepatitis C (Best-C). The Birth Cohort Evaluation to Advance Screening and Testing for Hepatitis C (Best-C) will estimate the effectiveness and cost of a Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) screening strategy that targets all individuals in the birth cohorts born between 1945 and 1965 as compared with the current risk-based HCV screening approach. Best-C consists of two studies, a retrospective and a prospective study, where qualitative interviews will assess the feasibility and acceptance of the new (birth-cohort) strategy by medical staff and a simulation model will estimate the cost effectiveness of the birth-cohort screening compared to the risk-based screening.  More

International Housing Sector Review. Under the sponsorship of the International Housing Coalition (IHC), in 2009 NORC staff authored a paper for wide public dissemination that argues for a very substantial change in U.S. foreign assistance policy. More

Reintegration of Ex-Offenders Random Assignment Evaluation. The Reintegration of Ex-Offenders Random Assignment Evaluation Study (RExO), funded by Department of Labor, is designed to provide a rigorous, random assignment evaluation of a demonstration program serving formerly incarcerated individuals through employment-centered programs. The evaluation will examine impacts on participants’ post-program labor market outcomes and criminal recidivism by comparing the outcomes of participants to randomly-assigned individuals who are eligible for, but do not receive, services. More

Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF).

Sponsored by the Federal Reserve Board, this triennial survey is the only fully representative source of information on the broad financial circumstances of U.S. households. No other survey collects data on the household finances of a probability sample of Americans.  Data from the SCF are used to inform monetary policy, tax policy, consumer protection, and a variety of other policy issues. The data also serve as a basis for longer-term research on the economic state of the American family. More

The Economic Burden of Vision Loss and Eye Disorders in the United States. This project was funded by Prevent Blindness America (PBA) with the goal of creating the first comprehensive estimate of the economic burden of vision loss and eye disorders in the United States.  Our report, “Cost of Vision: The Economic Burden of Vision Loss and Eye Disorders in the United States” serves to update the 2007 PBA-sponsored report “The Economic Impact of Eye Problems”.  The 2007 report has stood as the primary estimate of the economic impact of eye and vision problems since its publication, but was subject to a number of limitations that led to an underestimate of total costs, including the omission of persons younger than age 40, the lack of inclusion of a number of cost categories, and the restriction of medical costs to only four eye diseases.   More

See all Economics projects


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Chet Bowie

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Jeffrey Telgarsky

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Jeffrey Hackett

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Tom W. Smith

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