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: