Homeless man A project team meeting
Conference room off NORC lobby Hallway Conferernce Boy receiving a vaccination NORC's work supplies insight for informed decisions.

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

Biodemography of Exceptional Longevity in the United States. This project proposes to investigate why some people manage to survive to extreme old age (100+ years) and what are the biological and social correlates of exceptional longevity. These are important issues not only for demographic forecasts of human mortality and population aging, and the policy implications on health-care and pension expenditures, but also for improving our understanding of the fundamental mechanisms of human aging and longevity. The project proposes to explore the effects of early-life living conditions, adult physical characteristics, marriage, and reproductive history on exceptional longevity, and will test a number of related biomedical and social hypotheses.  The project is designed as an interdisciplinary study of exceptional human longevity. To contribute to the research infrastructure for subsequent longevity studies world-wide, a database with integrated, matched information on longevity predictor variables will be developed, and made available to the research community on the Internet. More

Education and Transition to Adulthood. This project’s key research question is ‘How does schooling, and specifically individuals’ experiences in postsecondary education, influence health trajectories and early adult labor force and family formation?’ More

General Social Survey (GSS). Since 1972, the General Social Survey (GSS) has been monitoring societal change and studying the growing complexity of American society. The GSS is NORC’s longest running project, and one of its most influential. More

Medicaid Emergency Psychiatric Demonstration. On this project, NORC is teaming with IMPAQ International and the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors to provide technical and analytic assistance to CMS for the design, implementation, and monitoring of the 3‐year Medicaid Emergency Psychiatric Demonstration.  More

Survey of Doctorate Recipients. NORC conducts the Survey of Doctorate Recipients (SDR) for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).The SDR is a survey of 120,000 science and engineering doctorate recipients who earned their degrees from institutions within the United States. More

See all Special Populations projects

Headlines

News Slate: Calculating the frequency and regularity of your sex life, using General Social Survey data. More
Posted: 5.29.2015 4:35PM
News TVO: Senior Research Scientist Louise Hawkley talks about loneliness and introversion More
Posted: 5.7.2015 3:57PM
News The Huffington Post: GSS data shows the increase of support for same-sex marriage in the United States More
Posted: 3.12.2015 5:42PM
News UChicago News: Senior Fellow Dan Black discusses the Great Migration More
Posted: 3.12.2015 5:23PM
News The Associated Press: The AP-NORC Center looked at GSS survey data that showed increased support for same-sex marriage More
Posted: 3.12.2015 5:14PM