Sexual and gender minorities (SGM) are an understudied, underserved, growing percentage of the U.S. population. We are pioneers, actively bridging that research gap.
In the late 1980s, NORC began developing innovative research methods to meet the urgent need for population data on the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We used these new methods—coupled with more traditional approaches—to develop the 1992 National Health and Social Life Survey, the first major national study of sexual practices in the U.S. It featured rigorous nationwide population sampling, examined social networks, and asked new questions about sexual identity, attraction, and behavior. The resulting landmark publication—The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States (Laumann, Gagnon, Michael, & Michaels, 1994)—provided new data and understanding about sexuality, answering pressing public health questions and paving the way to further research.
In 1988, NORC researchers added questions about the gender of sexual partners and identity to our flagship General Social Survey. This has produced the longest tracking of answers to sexual partner and identity questions for the U.S. adult population, providing unparalleled insights into changes over time.
Since the 1980s, we’ve been continually involved in SGM research innovation, honing our expertise in:
- Studies of SGM populations ranging from adolescence to old age
- Measurement and questionnaire design including cognitive interviewing as well as online and in-person focus groups
- Sampling and recruitment of rare and understudied populations using Respondent-Driven Sampling (RDS) and social media
- Examination of the intersection of language, culture, and race/ethnicity in methods and substance that impact SGM populations
Our success at surveying what is a small, hard-to-reach-and-count segment of the population has led to extensive work on behalf of federal clients, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
Some of our many projects for these clients include:
- 2021 Sampling Strategies and Measure Development for the LGBTQ Aging Project. The National Institute on Aging selected us to develop the optimal approach to drawing a large probability sample of older LGBTQ adults, for use in a major study of this population.
- 2019 Survey of Today’s Adolescent Relationships and Transitions. Alongside CDC, we developed a major national survey of more than 3,000 sexual and gender minority youth who we recruited using social media. The goal was to help health and school professionals in their efforts to improve the lives of SGM adolescents.
- In 2016, on behalf of the CMS Office of Minority Health, we evaluated current survey questions on sexual orientation and gender identity for English- and Spanish-speaking older adults. The work resulted in improvements in the Spanish language question on sexual orientation, in major federal surveys.
- Sampling Strategies and Measure Development for the LGBTQ Aging Project
- Reducing Stigma at Systems, Organizational, and Individual Client Levels in the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program: ESCALATE—Ending Stigma through Collaboration and Lifting All to Empowerment
- Planning, Designing, Implementing, and Evaluating Programs: Reducing Health Disparities through Quality Improvement
- Message & Materials Testing to Expand Violence Prevention Resources
- Survey of Today’s Adolescent Relationships and Transitions
- Developing Tools for Sexual and Gender Minority Youth
- Accelerating PrEP Diffusion through Network Change Agents
- Survey for the National Institute on Drug Abuse on HIV risk and risk reduction in young Black men
- Digital Communication Networks in Men at Risk for HIV
- 1998 Chicago Health & Social Life Survey
Departments, Centers & Programs
Sexual & Gender Minority Research Experts
Sabrina AvripasSenior Research Director
Dan BlackSenior Fellow
Megan CoffmanSenior Research Scientist
Rich DunvillePrincipal Research Scientist
Mollie HertelSenior Research Scientist
Michelle JohnsSenior Research Scientist
Alison LaffanPrincipal Research Scientist
Stuart MichaelsSenior Research Scientist
Christopher La RoseSenior Research Scientist
Seth SandersSenior Fellow
Shannon TenBroeckSenior Research Director
Melissa Heim VioxSenior Research Director
Stefan VoglerResearch Scientist