NORC at the University of Chicago continues to contribute to public knowledge on key issues facing society. We’ve strategically expanded our capacity to provide scientifically rigorous, methodologically innovative data collection and analysis to a diverse array of clients, with a special emphasis on data dissemination, data visualization, and project speed and scalability. The following stories highlight some of our recent work and demonstrate our more than 75-year commitment to finding the most effective ways to deliver insights for informed decisions.
Proven Science Meets New Opportunities: A Path to Deeper Understanding
As one of the world’s leading research institutions, NORC is dedicated to helping policymakers, businesses, communities, and individuals understand a constantly changing world in order to navigate it as effectively as possible. We’ve studied the impact of singular events, technological advancements, social movements, changes in public policy, and cultural trends—from national tragedies to our evolving health care and educational systems to the core beliefs that people have on almost any imaginable topic. Our research has informed crucial decisions by leaders and communities across the full spectrum of human experience.
NORC has been a pioneer in data collection, management, analysis, and dissemination, and we’re proud of our contributions to creating essential knowledge, as well as our achievements in advancing social science research and methods. At any given time, our more than 2,000 staff members are working on about 400 active projects comprising over 180 million dollars of research in dozens of countries around the world. And clients of all types have come to rely on NORC’s proven objectivity and methodological rigor to help them glean unbiased insights they can trust. We are grateful for our deep connections with the University of Chicago and our strong ties throughout the research, policy, and media communities—all of which play a critical role in our mission to create and distribute essential data and analysis to inform decision-making.
As NORC enters its 77th year, we find ourselves in a time of rapid change and challenge, facing a present and future marked by several dramatic, simultaneously occurring factors: accelerating economic, social, and cultural transformations; revolutionary shifts in technology; vast amounts and new types of data; and a growing and diversifying set of organizations that consider their main purpose to be the creation and analysis of data to help decision-makers understand this dynamic environment. As the world becomes more focused on—and accustomed to—the use of data in our everyday lives, there are divergent paths that might come to define how data shapes the world around us. In the worst case, as more and more data of varying levels of quality are created by a growing list of producers, it may become harder and harder to discern truth from fiction (or fiction presented as truth) with a corresponding, and very substantial, negative impact on society. In contrast, we at NORC believe it is possible to achieve the best-case outcome. In this scenario, the hard lessons learned over the years about correctly using data will be coupled with new methods, advanced tools, and the increasing democratization of data to unlock the power of new and emerging data streams to use them in ways that are novel, societally responsible, scientifically accurate, and beneficial to all.
To achieve these results, those who will lead advances in society’s use of data must be guided by longstanding principles of good science, a culture of innovation, a commitment to transparency, and a mandate for objective results. For its part, NORC is dedicated to bringing its considerable lineage, curiosity, the expertise of its people, and its core values to the challenges ahead. In the stories and vignettes throughout this report, you will see NORC’s core values in action. We are committed to ensuring society benefits from the production and analysis of data, guided by our unwavering obligation to the principles of rigorous science coupled with a fascination for the opportunities ahead as data and the ways we draw insight from data evolve.
In order to push the boundaries of scientific inquiry, our robust and growing body of domestic and international program evaluation work includes experimental designs that use many different data types and rigorous analytic techniques to arrive at a critical understanding of whether a program is reaching its intended goals. Our AmeriSpeak team is creating wholly new models, techniques, and tools for ensuring that web panels can yield results society can trust while also creating new methods for calibrating data analytics based on administrative and non-probability data. The Data Enclave team is revolutionizing the way researchers interact with sensitive data while protecting the rights of our citizens. And NORC’s Health Media Collaboratory is at the forefront of understanding how the vast amounts of social data being created can be used to glean invaluable insights. Equally important, NORC’s longstanding body of work running some of the most critical studies in the nation—like the General Social Survey, the National Immunization Survey, the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey, the National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth, and the Survey of Consumer Finances, to name a few—illustrates NORC’s reputation for sound science, methodological transparency, and the creation of objective knowledge.
In our rapidly changing world, as the use of data becomes ever more pervasive in every facet of human endeavor, the role of research institutions is more vital than ever. NORC is committed to enabling citizens, students, families, journalists, communities, businesses, and governments to comprehend the dynamic changes afoot and thrive with the help of new understanding and insights.
How do the circumstances of childhood and adolescence influence career and earnings outcomes? What attributes promote resilience in communities faced with entrenched poverty or natural disaster? How do congregations function as economic entities? NORC researchers are adept at identifying, measuring, and drawing insight from a complex web of socioeconomic indicators—from weekly surveys of the price of gas to longitudinal studies of the intersection between childhood circumstance and professional success—and provide reliable, unbiased data that inform important family, business, and government decisions.
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Can data mining identify predictors of student achievement or warnings of student struggle? Does parent coaching and education improve early childhood success? Is personal mentoring an effective way of keeping college students on track for graduation? From assessing the nation’s supply and demand for early care in education to tracking the educational and career arcs of doctoral students, NORC researchers have been helping policymakers and education providers improve education access and effectiveness throughout the learning lifecycle.
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Informing Global Development
Can text messages help children learn to read? Can voter education reduce political corruption? What are the most effective ways to measure the prevalence and impact of human trafficking? Leveraging experience in more than 80 countries around the world, NORC helps government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and stakeholders of all kinds to maximize the effectiveness of their global development efforts. NORC’s country and subject-matter expertise, cultural sensitivity, and innovative, adaptive data collection methods have made us a sought-after partner. And increasingly, we are becoming the all-inclusive in-country resource for program monitoring, evaluation, and learning in countries like Senegal, El Salvador, and Tanzania.
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What are the most effective and innovative ways of structuring and paying for health care services? How can care best be delivered to those covered by Medicare and Medicaid? Can data in electronic health records help identify patients at risk of hospital-acquired infections? Can geospatial mapping help predict outbreaks of mosquito-borne illnesses? How do people’s attitudes about health and health care influence their choice of providers and care settings? NORC has conducted pioneering research on health care costs and the role of insurance in health care since the 1950s. Working with an expanding array of clients and using increasingly diverse methods of rigorous data collection and analysis, NORC has informed ongoing changes in programs that serve vulnerable populations and how Americans provide and pay for health care.
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Learning from Citizens
How are Americans preparing for aging and retirement? What can social media tell us about the effectiveness of local tobacco regulation? How does political affiliation influence media consumption, and vice versa? Since probing American attitudes towards rationing during the Second World War, NORC has provided politicians, policymakers, and scholars with a clear and unbiased perspective on American social and cultural attitudes and behavior. The foundation of this work is the General Social Survey, which NORC has conducted since 1972. Its branches include explorations of issues as diverse as traffic safety and psychological well-being.
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Explore the World of NORC
From timely surveys and brief consulting projects to major longitudinal research initiatives, NORC’s work provides valuable insights for business, government, and nonprofit organizations.
The NORC staff comprises a diverse array of experts and innovators whose knowledge and skills span the breadth of social science research and methodology.
NORC has developed several pioneering resources for gathering, analyzing, disseminating, and securing data.
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Follow NORC on social media for the latest news about our work. Contact us directly if you have specific questions or would like to talk about working together.
Credits and Acknowledgments
Assessing Americans’ Zika Awareness photo credit: 2016 AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan
Data Visualizations and Infographics
Lindsay Arends, Nola du Toit, Ying Li, Edward Mulrow, Meimeizi Zhu (NORC), Kym Abrams Design, Mu-Hsien Hsieh, MUHSIEN INC.
Publicly available interactive code:
Minds & Media: (Political bubbles) bl.ocks.org/danielatkin/57ea2f55b79ae686dfc7
Science & Technology: (SDR Sankey) github.com/tamc/Sankey
Economy, Markets, and the Workforce: (GSS Trends) bl.ocks.org/DStruths/9c042e3a6b66048b5bd4
Editorial and Copywriting
Site Design and Development
Kym Abrams Design
Emily Alvarez, Lindsay Arends, Kate Bachtell, Lynette Bertsche, Kevin Brown, John Burkholder, Alison Gross, Renee Hendley, Laurie Imhof, Greg Lanier, Songmei Li, Kristina Lowell, Antonio Macias, Robert Montgomery, Kristen Moorhead, Lance Selfa, Cynthia Simko, Amelia Solorio, Lisa Stein, Glen Szczypka, Vince Welch, Eric Young
Appendix and Footnotes
1The hot beverage count includes only those produced by cafeteria drink machines and does not include self-provided beverages or those made using traditional coffee or tea pots.
2Statistics derived from Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (2013 Cost and Use, 2012-2013 Access to Care).