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NORC’s research informs efforts to understand and support the well-being of sexual and gender minorities across the lifespan.

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.

Representative Projects:

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Center on Equity Research (CER)

The CER conducts research to advance equity through the development, implementation and dissemination of high quality, inclusive and equitable social science research methods.

Sexual & Gender Minority Research Experts

Highlighted Projects

Testing Violence Prevention Messages and Materials

Supporting CDC’s efforts to improve resources for parents and anti-violence practitioners


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Violence Prevention

Survey of Today’s Adolescent Relationships and Transitions

Understanding sexual behavior of Black and Latino young men to prevent HIV


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Adolescent and School Health