What the Data Say About Race, Ethnicity and American Youth

Updated September 4, 2020 | 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

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