U.S. Child Population Grows and Changes: 74 Million Kids to Shape Future of More Diverse America

Updated May 11, 2023 | Posted June 17, 2019
The Casey Foundation released its 2019 KIDS COUNT Data Book, an annual report on child well-being

The Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion today urged pol­i­cy­mak­ers and child advo­cates to pri­or­i­tize poli­cies that would expand oppor­tu­ni­ty for America’s 74 mil­lion chil­dren, not­ing mea­sur­able but still inad­e­quate progress over the past three decades to ensure all chil­dren can real­ize their full potential.

The 30th edi­tion of the KIDS COUNT Data Book — the most com­pre­hen­sive annu­al report on child well-being in the Unit­ed States — notes progress in help­ing chil­dren thrive since the first Data Book was pub­lished in 1990. But it finds the nation has failed to tear down bar­ri­ers affect­ing chil­dren of col­or and under­scores that America’s future will be brighter if all kids in all com­mu­ni­ties have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to thrive.

Read the Data Book

Among top-line find­ings: More than 13 mil­lion U.S. chil­dren live in pover­ty, and the nation is fail­ing to equip many chil­dren, par­tic­u­lar­ly in com­mu­ni­ties of col­or, with what they need to reach their full potential.

America’s chil­dren are one quar­ter of our pop­u­la­tion and 100% of our future,” said Casey Foun­da­tion Pres­i­dent and CEO Lisa Hamil­ton. All of the 74 mil­lion kids in our increas­ing­ly diverse coun­try have unlim­it­ed poten­tial, and we have the data, knowl­edge and evi­dence to cre­ate the poli­cies that will help them real­ize it. It’s incum­bent on us to do just that.”

Down­load news release as a PDF

Nation­al Find­ings from the 2019 KIDS COUNT Data Book

This report com­pares past data on 16 indi­ca­tors with fig­ures from 2017, the most recent year avail­able in most cases.

  • Broad­ly speak­ing, chil­dren in the Unit­ed States had a bet­ter chance at thriv­ing in 2017 than in 1990 — with improve­ments in 11 of the 16 KIDS COUNT index mea­sures of child well-being — but racial and eth­nic dis­par­i­ties persisted.
  • One in six Amer­i­can kids grew up in pover­ty, pre­sent­ing tremen­dous risks to child well-being. Despite eco­nom­ic growth and reduced unem­ploy­ment, there’s been vir­tu­al­ly no progress on child pover­ty since the pub­li­ca­tion of the first Data Book in 1990.
  • 2017 was the first year since 2010 that saw an increase in the num­ber of unin­sured kids. Four mil­lion Amer­i­can kids didn’t have health insur­ance. The 5% unin­sured rate is 62% bet­ter than it was three decades ago — thanks to the Afford­able Care Act, the Children’s Health Insur­ance Pro­gram and state-by-state Med­ic­aid expansion.
  • Low birth weight, which often por­tends devel­op­men­tal chal­lenges, had increased three years in a row, match­ing the four-decade high of 8.3% of all live births (2006).

State Rank­ings in the 2019 KIDS COUNT Data Book

  • Six of the top 10 states for over­all child well-being are in the North­east. New Hamp­shire and Mass­a­chu­setts are again in first and sec­ond place, fol­lowed by Iowa (3), Min­neso­ta (4), New Jer­sey (5), Ver­mont (6), Utah (7), Con­necti­cut (8), Maine (9) and Vir­ginia (10).
  • Mis­sis­sip­pi (48), Louisiana (49) and New Mex­i­co (50) are again the low­est-ranked states.
  • States in the South and West pop­u­late the bot­tom of the over­all rank­ings. These regions con­tain the 18 low­est-ranked states.

View the Inter­ac­tive Data Book

Along with the annu­al state-by-state rank­ings, the 2019 Data Book explores the growth in America’s child pop­u­la­tion since 1990 — the year the first Data Book was pub­lished. Among the major developments:

  • The U.S. child pop­u­la­tion increased by more than 9 mil­lion from 64.2 mil­lion to 73.7 mil­lion between 1990 and 2017. Texas (2.5 mil­lion more kids), Flori­da (1.2 mil­lion) and Cal­i­for­nia (1.1 mil­lion) account­ed for half of the nation’s total growth. See how the pop­u­la­tion of chil­dren in the US has con­tin­ued to change through the 2020 census.
  • All 15 of the states where growth in the child pop­u­la­tion out­paced the nation­al aver­age since 1990 are in the South or West. Most states that had declines in the child pop­u­la­tion are in the North­east and Midwest.
  • The per­cent­age of Amer­i­can chil­dren who were Lati­no more than dou­bled from 12 to 26%. The pro­por­tion of Asian and Pacif­ic Islander chil­dren also dou­bled, from 3 to 6%. The per­cent­age of white chil­dren declined from 69 to 53%.
  • From 1990 to 2017, 38 states and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia saw the per­cent­age of chil­dren from immi­grant fam­i­lies dou­ble; 12 have seen those per­cent­ages quadru­ple. More than one in four U.S. chil­dren is grow­ing up in an immi­grant family.

Direct lines can be drawn between areas of tremen­dous improve­ment in well-being — includ­ing health insur­ance cov­er­age, decreased rates of teen child­bear­ing and increased rates of high school grad­u­a­tion — and poli­cies that have sup­port­ed these suc­cess­es. Pol­i­cy­mak­ers should take addi­tion­al steps to help all chil­dren thrive. The Casey Foun­da­tion calls on elect­ed offi­cials and rep­re­sen­ta­tives to:

  • Expand the pro­grams that make and keep kids healthy. For the sake of all chil­dren, regard­less of their immi­gra­tion sta­tus, states should expand access to Medicaid.
  • Pro­vide the tools proven to help fam­i­lies lift them­selves up eco­nom­i­cal­ly. Fed­er­al and state earned income tax cred­its (EITC) and child tax cred­it pro­grams mean work­ing par­ents can devote more take-home pay to meet their children’s needs.
  • Tear down obsta­cles faced by kids of col­or. Every child has incred­i­ble indi­vid­ual poten­tial, and com­mu­ni­ties thrive when all kids thrive. African Amer­i­can, Lati­no and Native Amer­i­can chil­dren remain more like­ly than oth­ers to encounter bar­ri­ers — from liv­ing in high-pover­ty neigh­bor­hoods to not hav­ing health insur­ance — to that con­tribute to dis­parate out­comes. Our pub­lic poli­cies must acknowl­edge and elim­i­nate those obstacles.
  • Count all kids. Ensure the 2020 cen­sus counts all chil­dren, espe­cial­ly those under 5 years old and from hard-to-count areas. The 2010 cen­sus missed 2.2 mil­lion such kids, and the upcom­ing count may miss even more if young chil­dren are not a pri­or­i­ty. The stakes are high: 55 major fed­er­al pro­grams, includ­ing Head Start and the Children’s Health Insur­ance Pro­gram, allo­cate more than $880 bil­lion each year based on cen­sus data.

The 2019 KIDS COUNT Data Book is the 30th edi­tion of an annu­al study based on pub­licly avail­able data for all 50 states, the Dis­trict of Colum­bia and Puer­to Rico.

View state news releases

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