Kirk Wolter

Professor (Part-Time)
Department of Statistics
Principal Statistical Advisor and Distinguished Senior Fellow, NORC

Kirk Wolter
Jones 316
773-834-5929 (Statistics)
312-759-4206 (NORC)


Kirk Wolter, Ph.D., is Principal Statistical Advisor and Distinguished Senior Fellow with the National Opinion Research Center, and is also Professor, Department of Statistics, University of Chicago. During his career, he has led or participated in the design of many of America's largest and most important information systems, including the Current Business Surveys, the Current Employment Statistics program, the Current Population Survey, the 1980 and 1990 Decennial Censuses, the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, the National Resources Inventory, and the 2012 National Survey of Early Care and Education. He led the conversion of major market research surveys to scanning-based methods of data collection, both in America and in many of the countries in Western Europe. He currently works with (a) the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct the National Immunization Survey, a study of childhood immunization and one of the world's largest RDD (random digit dialing) telephone surveys, (b) the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to conduct the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey, a study of the utilization and cost of health care by America’s seniors, and (c) the Agency for Children and Families to conduct the National Survey of Early Care and Education, a study of the supply and demand for child-care services in the United States.

In addition to his career at NORC, Wolter has held major positions elsewhere. In 2002, he became the founding director of the Interdisciplinary Research Institute for Survey Science and Professor of Statistics at Iowa State University. Under his leadership, the Institute conducted survey research in such fields as education, natural resources, substance abuse, and family health. Before joining NORC in 1994, Wolter was Vice President of Statistical Design Worldwide for A.C. Nielsen Co., where he had executive accountability for statistical methodology in the 30 countries in which Nielsen then operated.

Before he joined Nielsen, Wolter worked for 14 years at the U.S. Census Bureau, culminating in his role as Chief of the Statistical Research Division. There he led research programs in areas such as statistics, mathematics, geographic information systems, computer technology, and various social science disciplines. Concurrently with the Census post, Wolter served as Adjunct Professor at the George Washington University where he developed and taught graduate-level courses in survey sampling, an area in which he is recognized worldwide.

Wolter is a member of the Federal Economic Statistics Advisory Committee and has completed service on National Academy of Sciences panels on the design of the 2010 Census program of evaluations and experiments, federal business statistics, and cost-of-living indexes. He is author of the book Introduction to Variance Estimation, a standard work in its field, and has published numerous articles in refereed statistical journals. One example is Wolter (et al.) "Reliability of the Uncertified Ballots in the Presidential Election in Florida," American Statistician, 2003.

Wolter has received extensive recognition for his work, including the U.S. Department of Commerce's silver and bronze medals. He is a Fellow of the American Statistical Association, an elected member of the International Statistical Institute, and past President of the International Association of Survey Statisticians and of the Survey Research Methods Section of the American Statistical Association. His Ph.D. in Statistics is from Iowa State University.

Last update: 7/10/23