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

Updated on May 11, 2023, and originally posted June 17, 2019, by the Annie E. Casey Foundation

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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