Report: Children Make Up Smallest-Ever Share of U.S. Population

Posted April 3, 2023
Blog reportchildrenmakeup 2023

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.

Down­load the report

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.

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