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NORC has studied both the causes and perceptions of poverty and inequality since our founding.

By some estimates, the top one percent of Americans earn 20 percent of the income. Wealth inequality is even more dramatic, with a mere 0.1 percent of the population controlling more than 20 percent of the wealth. At the same time, more than 45 million Americans live in poverty, according to recent Census data. This level of inequality has implications for social and economic mobility, professional and educational attainment, and food and housing security, as well as the entrepreneurship and innovation that drive our economy.

NORC is one of the nation’s leading sources of reliable, independent data on poverty and inequality in this country and around the world. One of NORC’s very first studies was a survey of public perceptions about race, economic status, and poverty. Since then, NORC researchers have explored the world of low-wage work, examined the economic impact of early childhood care and development, and studied a variety of social safety net and economic development programs both in the United States and abroad.

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Departments, Centers, & Programs

Research Divisions

Poverty & Inequality Experts

Highlighted Projects

Prosecutorial Discretion in Probation Revocations

Exploring the prosecutor’s role in setting supervision conditions and in the decisions made regarding those who violate them


Arnold Ventures LLC

Making Connections Research Scholars

Providing analytical opportunities for early-career scholars and researchers of color


The Annie E. Casey Foundation

LEO Maternity Homes Follow-Up Interviews

Conducting post-intervention follow-up interviews with unhoused pregnant women


Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunity (LEO)

Feeding America’s Child & Family Choice Program

The first rigorous assessment of increasing choice for food pantries and the families they serve


Feeding America National Office (FANO)

The Concordance Academy Evaluation

An experiment to test the effectiveness of a novel prisoner reentry program in St. Louis, Missouri


The Concordance Academy

Making Connections Surveys

A longitudinal and cross-sectional study conducted in low-income neighborhoods in ten U.S. cities


The Annie E Casey Foundation

Financial Aspirations of Black Americans

A study of the financial status and aspirations of Black Americans


The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies

NYC Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative

Exploring the collateral consequences of drug arrests in New York City


New York City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ)

Chicago Health and Activity in Real-Time (CHART)

The first-ever study documenting how activity spaces change as people age


The National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health

‘Closer to Home’ and ‘A Path to Equity’

Exploring the impact of more equitable access to pre-k on student outcomes


Institute of Education Sciences

Housing Needs of American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians

Conducting a culturally sensitive study in tribal and indigenous areas to inform housing policy


U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

LEO Friends of the Children Follow-up Interviews

Conducting post-intervention follow-up interviews with caregivers of children living in poverty


Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunity (LEO)

The Forefront Racial Equity Collective Mapping Survey

Identifying organizations and initiatives advancing racial equity in Illinois