What the Data Say About Race, Ethnicity and American Youth

Updated on September 4, 2020 and originally posted June 17, 2018 by the Annie E. Casey Foundation

U.S. Population by Race and Ethnicity in 2018

In 2018, 50% of the nation’s child pop­u­la­tion was described as white. Beyond this group, 25% of chil­dren were described as His­pan­ic or Lati­no; 14% as Black or African Amer­i­can; 5% as Asian; 4% as mul­tira­cial; 1% as Amer­i­can Indi­an or Native Alaskan; and less than 0.5% as Native Hawai­ian or oth­er Pacif­ic Islander.

The nation’s child pop­u­la­tion is more diverse than its total pop­u­la­tion. One fac­tor increas­ing diver­si­ty among chil­dren is immi­gra­tion. Anoth­er con­tribut­ing fac­tor? An increase in inter­ra­cial rela­tion­ships, which has boost­ed the per­cent­age of mul­tira­cial kids nationwide.

For an analy­sis of racial and eth­nic dis­par­i­ties among chil­dren, see Race for Results: Build­ing a Path to Oppor­tu­ni­ty for All Chil­dren.

Changing Demographics of U.S. Child Population

How the Unit­ed States defines race and ethnicity

Racial def­i­n­i­tions are not sta­t­ic con­structs based in sci­ence or biol­o­gy. In fact, the way racial groups have been defined and mea­sured in the Unit­ed States has changed dra­mat­i­cal­ly over time and con­tin­ues to evolve, along with the country’s chang­ing demographics.

In devel­op­ing the state and nation­al-lev­el data includ­ed in this report, we used the race and eth­nic­i­ty cat­e­gories cur­rent­ly defined by the U.S. Office of Man­age­ment and Bud­get (OMB) for use by fed­er­al sta­tis­ti­cal agen­cies. They are as follows:

African Amer­i­can

This cat­e­go­ry includes peo­ple who iden­ti­fy as being Black or of African descent and may include peo­ple from the Caribbean.

Amer­i­can Indian

This cat­e­go­ry includes peo­ple who iden­ti­fied as belong­ing to an Amer­i­can Indi­an or Alas­ka Native trib­al group.


This cat­e­go­ry includes peo­ple who select­ed Asian Indi­an, Chi­nese, Kore­an, Japan­ese or Oth­er Asian group.


This cat­e­go­ry includes peo­ple who select­ed His­pan­ic, Lati­no or Span­ish ori­gin, defined as an eth­nic group by the OMB. Peo­ple who chose this cat­e­go­ry can be of any racial group and include peo­ple from Mex­i­co, Cen­tral and South Amer­i­ca and oth­er Span­ish-speak­ing countries.

Pacif­ic Islander

This cat­e­go­ry includes those who select­ed Native Hawai­ian, Samoan or Oth­er Pacif­ic Islander group.


This cat­e­go­ry includes peo­ple who iden­ti­fy as white or Cau­casian and have Euro­pean ancestry.

Two or More Races

This cat­e­go­ry includes peo­ple who chose two or more of the racial cat­e­gories above.

Racial and eth­nic dis­par­i­ties among U.S. children

As the nation­al data show, no one group has all chil­dren meet­ing all mile­stones. African Amer­i­can, Amer­i­can Indi­an and Lati­no chil­dren face some of the biggest obsta­cles on the path­way to opportunity.

The table below dis­plays the indi­ca­tors dis­ag­gre­gat­ed by race. In com­par­ing results across the areas rep­re­sent­ed in the index, we have grouped the indi­ca­tors into four areas — ear­ly child­hood, edu­ca­tion and ear­ly work expe­ri­ences, fam­i­ly resources and neigh­bor­hood context.

Race for Results Index Indi­ca­tors (Per­cent­ages)

For the full analy­sis of racial and eth­nic dis­par­i­ties among chil­dren, see Race for Results: Build­ing a Path to Oppor­tu­ni­ty for All Chil­dren.

Racial and Ethnic Disparities Among Children in America - Table 2: Race for Results Index Indicators

About the U.S. Cen­sus Bureau

The Cen­sus Bureau — our nation’s pri­ma­ry source of pop­u­la­tion data — has changed how it mea­sures race and eth­nic­i­ty over time. Today, the bureau tracks five cat­e­gories: 1) white; 2) Black or African Amer­i­can; 3) Amer­i­can Indi­an or Alas­ka native; 4) Asian; and 5) native Hawai­ian or oth­er Pacif­ic Islander.

Since the 2000 Cen­sus, respon­dents have been able to iden­ti­fy as more than one race. Sep­a­rate­ly, the bureau also tracks how many peo­ple iden­ti­fy as His­pan­ic, which is a des­ig­na­tion that can apply to indi­vid­u­als of any racial category.

See more sta­tis­tics on kids, dis­ag­gre­gat­ed by race and eth­nic­i­ty, in the KIDS COUNT Data Center

Popular Posts

View all blog posts   |   Browse Topics

Mental health is a pressing issue for Generation Z

blog   |   March 3, 2021

Generation Z and Mental Health