2020 Census: Each Decade, We Have a Chance to Get it Right and #CountAllKids

Posted October 20, 2018
Mom and her two young children, who are at risk of not being counted in the 2020 Census.

The Unit­ed States gets only one chance each decade to count its pop­u­la­tion, and the next oppor­tu­ni­ty — the 2020 Cen­sus — is fast approaching.

Read About the Risks to an Accu­rate Cen­sus in the 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book

Yet, the upcom­ing impend­ing cen­sus is mired in chal­lenges that could short­change the offi­cial pop­u­la­tion count by more than 2 mil­lion chil­dren younger than age 5, accord­ing to the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion’s 2018 KIDS COUNT® Data Book.

How do we know that young chil­dren are missed at high­er rates than their old­er peers? Because this group has been under­count­ed since 1980. Why? Researchers aren’t cer­tain, but they have some ideas:

  • Some kids aren’t count­ed because their entire fam­i­ly is missed due to high mobil­i­ty, home­less­ness, lan­guage bar­ri­ers or the com­plex­i­ty of mul­ti­fam­i­ly households.
  • Some kids live in places that are tra­di­tion­al­ly hard­er to count, such as neigh­bor­hoods with a lot of renters and multi­u­nit buildings.
  • Some house­hold mem­bers are record­ed as part of the cen­sus, but the youngest chil­dren are still missed due to sur­vey lim­i­ta­tions, the pres­ence of mul­ti­ple gen­er­a­tions in a house­hold or a lack of under­stand­ing that young kids should be counted.

Rough­ly 300 fed­er­al pro­grams use cen­sus-derived data to allo­cate more than $800 bil­lion in fund­ing annu­al­ly, includ­ing near­ly $160 bil­lion just on pro­grams for chil­dren. Under­count­ing kids would put these fed­er­al dol­lars at risk, lead­ing to under­fund­ed pro­grams that are crit­i­cal for fam­i­ly sta­bil­i­ty and opportunity.

If we don’t count chil­dren, we ren­der their needs invis­i­ble and their futures uncer­tain,” says Casey Foun­da­tion Pres­i­dent and CEO Patrick McCarthy. A major cen­sus under­count will result in over­crowd­ed class­rooms, shut­tered Head Start pro­grams, under­staffed hos­pi­tal emer­gency rooms and more kids with­out health care.”

The nation’s next cen­sus, slat­ed for April 1, 2020, faces a range of chal­lenges — from a lack of lead­er­ship to an inau­gur­al dig­i­tal sur­vey to the poten­tial of sup­pressed par­tic­i­pa­tion due to a new cit­i­zen­ship question.

Despite these chal­lenges: It’s not too late to ensure we con­duct a cen­sus that leads to prop­er fund­ing, rep­re­sen­ta­tion and pro­grams for the con­tin­ued healthy devel­op­ment of kids,” says McCarthy. But it’s up to pol­i­cy­mak­ers, com­mu­ni­ties and the nation to make sure that every kid is count­ed and matters.”

What can lead­ers do to count all kids?

  • Max­i­mize the capac­i­ty of the Cen­sus Bureau to count them.
  • Ful­ly fund state and local out­reach cam­paigns focused on their parents.
  • Expand the pool of trust­ed mes­sen­gers who can reach hard-to-count families.
  • Make inter­net access avail­able to fam­i­lies least like­ly to have it at home.
  • Address pri­va­cy and con­fi­den­tial­ly con­cerns, par­tic­u­lar­ly for those who are with­out doc­u­men­ta­tion but are enti­tled to be counted.

Read the fore­word of Casey’s KIDS COUNT Data Book, released in June 2018, to learn more about why a cen­sus under­count could be detri­men­tal to chil­dren and families.

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