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Special Populations

Sometimes visible to us, but more often hidden in plain sight, special populations inhabit the margins of our society, each with a unique set of needs. Ethnic minorities, veterans, disabled people, prison inmates, refugees and immigrants, children, and the elderly all face complex challenges as they strive to attain the advantages that other groups enjoy. Recent political events have added more pressure, such as increased U.S. military operations that have produced more veterans with special needs. Meanwhile, the weakening of traditional sources of economic stability, like home ownership, places special populations at even greater risk of hardship.

NORC helps government and organizations understand, evaluate—even manage—the programs and interventions that support these special populations and improve their circumstances. We have worked in this area since the 1950s, concentrating at that time on rural residents and welfare recipients. In the mid 1970s, NORC partnered with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on a longitudinal study to evaluate the efficacy of the Experimental Housing Allowance Program. The 1980s brought new insights about disadvantaged ethnic groups when NORC partnered with distinguished sociologist William Julius Wilson on the Urban Poverty and Family Life Survey of Chicago. More recently, NORC leveraged its extensive work on the National Immunization Survey (using the State and Local Area Integrated Telephone Survey data collection mechanism) to develop separate surveys on adoptive parents and children with special needs.

Today, NORC’s work emphasizes healthcare and other issues that touch multiple special populations. For example, our work with the Department of Veterans examines healthcare access for rural veterans living far from urban veterans’ hospitals. We also designed a multi-mode data collection and feasibility study on the natural history of children born with Spina Bifida; served as a partner on the highly complex, award-winning HIV Cost and Services Utilization Study; and continue to serve in an information management role for the Traumatic Brain Injury Technical Assistance Center.

Key to any work on special populations is knowing the right questions to ask and asking them in a highly sensitive manner. NORC brings this expertise, a broad understanding of quantitative and qualitative methodology, and deep knowledge about health information technology to uncover the insights that lead to effective decision making and planning.

Specific areas of expertise include:

Representative Projects

2012 NORC Presidential Election Study. The 2012 NORC Presidential Election Study was conducted in the weeks prior to the Presidential election to measure public opinion about important issues the country faces – economic recovery, health care costs, and extreme partisanship. More

Aging Services Technology Study. Under contract with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), NORC is conducting a study on aging services technology.  This study is mandated by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).  More

Methodological Research to Support the Redesign of the National Crime Victimization Survey: An Examination of a Twelve-Month Reference Period. For this project, NORC will address methods of improving event recall with the 6-month reference period for the telephone interview modes, and assesses respondent burden.  More

Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health Across the U.S. (REACH U.S.) Risk Factor Survey. The Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health Across the U.S. (REACH U.S.) program is the cornerstone of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) efforts to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities. NORC conducts two projects related to CDC’s REACH U.S. program. NORC conducts an annual survey in 28 REACH U.S. grantee communities to provide quantitative data to measure progress toward eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities in several health priority areas. NORC also uses existing data and a literature review to assess the role of cultural tailoring and translation on grantees’ activities related to policy, system and environmental changes.  More

Survey of Economically Successful Americans. Economically successful Americans have views about national problems that can be of great value to scholars and policy makers.  But little is known about the views of the most successful Americans which leads to these views being ignored and sometimes distorted by the media.  The Survey of Economically Successful Americans and the Common Good (SESA) gives this select group a rare opportunity to make their voice heard by academics and policy makers engaged in matters of national importance. More

See all Special Populations projects


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