Report: Children Make Up Smallest-Ever Share of U.S. Population
Children, who made up 40% of America’s total population in 1900 and 36% of it as recently as 1960, accounted for just 22% of the country’s total population in 2020, an all-time low, according to an analysis authored by experts on child demography and released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The report — The Changing Child Population of the United States: First Data From the 2020 Census — also shows the number of children of color grew from 2010 in 46 states and the District of Columbia.
The report from the Casey Foundation — a Baltimore-based national philanthropy focused on the well-being of young people — is based on data from the 2020 census and examines shifts in the number, characteristics by race and Hispanic origin and location of children:
- At 73.1 million, the number of children recorded in 2020 was 1.1 million fewer than in 2010 (74.2 million), the first absolute drop in the number of kids decade-to-decade since the Great Depression.
- The overall child population increased in 23 states and the District of Columbia but declined in 27 states and Puerto Rico, with the biggest percentage drop recorded in New Hampshire (11%) and the highest-growth state, North Dakota, seeing a 22% increase. Texas saw the largest absolute gain and California the largest absolute loss.
- Children of color accounted for all the growth in the child population between 2010 and 2020, with their population rising from 34.5 million to 38.5 million. Non-Hispanic white children made up less than half of all children (47.3%) in 2020 but remained the largest racial and ethnic population group among children (34.6 million).
These shifts also underscore the urgent need for better data, according to the Casey Foundation. The 2020 census undercounted young children at the worst rate since 1950.
Data come from the U.S. Census Bureau’s the 2020 census redistricting data files, which provide detailed racial and Hispanic origin data for the total population. The authors are William O’Hare, a respected demographer who previously led the Foundation’s KIDS COUNT®, and Yeris H. Mayol-Garcia, an adjunct faculty member at Georgetown University.