Young Children Most Often Missed in Census, Study Says

Posted December 15, 2009
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Newsrelease whyyoungkidsarentcounted 2009

Chil­dren under age 5 are missed more than any oth­er age group in the decen­ni­al cen­sus, accord­ing to analy­sis released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Why Are Young Chil­dren Missed So Often in the Cen­sus? exam­ines data from the Cen­sus Bureau’s Demo­graph­ic Analy­sis that shows that more than 1 mil­lion young chil­dren under age 10 were missed in the 2000 Cen­sus and over three-quar­ters of a mil­lion chil­dren under age five were missed, or near­ly 4% of this pop­u­la­tion group.

The sta­tis­tics are even more pro­nounced among minor­i­ty chil­dren, with 5.3% of black males under age five missed in the 2000 cen­sus, com­pared to 3.3% of non­black males of the same age group. Among girls, blacks under age five are missed at a rate of 5.4% com­pared to 4% of their non­white counterparts.

When chil­dren are not count­ed accu­rate­ly, we don’t get a true pic­ture of our nation, and com­mu­ni­ties don’t get their right­ful share of pub­lic funds or polit­i­cal pow­er,” explained Lau­ra Beavers, coor­di­na­tor of the nation­al KIDS COUNT project at the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion in Bal­ti­more. Chil­dren depend on the rest of us to make sure they are count­ed accu­rate­ly. But, they will be the ones to suf­fer if their com­mu­ni­ty does not get the resources it deserves for schools, clin­ics, or child care centers.”

Cen­sus counts are used, in whole or in part, for more than 140 pro­grams that dis­trib­ute more than $400 bil­lion of fed­er­al funds to states and local­i­ties, includ­ing such child-focused pro­grams as:

  • Spe­cial Edu­ca­tion Grants to states ($10.8 billion)
  • Head Start ($6.9 billion)
  • State Children’s Health Insur­ance Pro­gram ($5.9 billion)
  • Fos­ter Care Title IV‑E ($4.7 billion)
  • Improv­ing Teacher Qual­i­ty State Grants ($2.9 billion)

The Casey Foun­da­tion has been a leader in rein­forc­ing the impor­tance of child health insur­ance pro­grams, child­care pro­grams, hous­ing assis­tance, the Earned Income Tax Cred­it and the Child Tax Cred­it – sup­ports that many fam­i­lies in hard-to-count com­mu­ni­ties rely on to stay afloat.

Among the rea­sons for the under­count in the nation’s chil­dren are chal­lenges in data col­lec­tion and dif­fer­ences in the type of house­holds where young chil­dren live:

  • Young chil­dren are more than three times as like­ly as adults to be liv­ing in large (7+ per­sons) house­holds. More than 8.4% of chil­dren live in such large house­holds, com­pared to less than 2.6% of adults. Because cen­sus forms allow space for detailed demo­graph­ics on up to six house­hold mem­bers, chil­dren are often left off of the forms.
  • Young chil­dren are more like­ly to live in more mobile fam­i­lies, who are often more dif­fi­cult to count. Data show 21% of chil­dren under age five moved in the last year com­pared to 16% of the total pop­u­la­tion. The report also exam­ines chil­dren liv­ing in tem­po­rary sit­u­a­tions, such as fos­ter care, or liv­ing with rel­a­tives oth­er than their parents.
  • Young chil­dren are more like­ly to live in rental units. Data show 42% of house­holds with chil­dren under age six live in rental units, com­pared to only 32% of house­holds that do not have a child under age six in the hous­ing unit.
  • Younger chil­dren are more like­ly than teenagers to live in more com­plex fam­i­lies. For exam­ple, more than two-thirds (69%) of chil­dren under age one live in a house­hold with an adult oth­er than a par­ent, com­pared to only 32% of chil­dren age 12 to 17.

Report author William O’Hare antic­i­pates more dif­fi­cul­ty in achiev­ing an accu­rate count of chil­dren in 2010 due to the increased num­ber of chil­dren liv­ing in unusu­al hous­ing sit­u­a­tions and the grow­ing num­ber of racial and eth­nic minor­i­ty house­holds which have his­tor­i­cal­ly been more dif­fi­cult to count.

The under­count of kids is star­tling, but it is not a new prob­lem,” said O’Hare, a demog­ra­ph­er and con­sul­tant to the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion. With com­bined efforts at the fed­er­al, state and local lev­els, we have a chance to improve on the past and make sure the youngest mem­bers of our soci­ety are ful­ly count­ed. We’re ask­ing child advo­cates and those invest­ed in the wel­fare of the nation’s kids to act as part­ners in deliv­er­ing the mes­sage that the cen­sus is easy, impor­tant and safe.”

The Cen­sus Bureau has already made sev­er­al changes to cen­sus forms and pro­ce­dures in an effort to get a more accu­rate count of young chil­dren in 2010. New forms offer clear instruc­tions on who should be includ­ed in a house­hold, such as new­born babies and fos­ter chil­dren. An expan­sion of the Cen­sus in Schools pro­gram will reach over 27.7 mil­lion fam­i­lies in 28 lan­guages, 20% of whom are like­ly to also have a preschool­er in the home.

Rec­om­men­da­tions for addi­tion­al action to over­come this his­toric trend include enlist­ing non­prof­it and advo­cate sup­port in local cen­sus com­mit­tees to edu­cate peo­ple about the high under­count rate for chil­dren and har­ness­ing fre­quent­ly-accessed sup­ports for hard-to-count fam­i­lies, such as the Women, Infants and Chil­dren nutri­tion pro­gram and Head Start.

This post is related to:

Popular Posts

View all blog posts   |   Browse Topics

Youth with curly hair in pink shirt

blog   |   June 3, 2021

Defining LGBTQ Terms and Concepts

A mother and her child are standing outdoors, each with one arm wrapped around the other. They are looking at each other and smiling. The child has a basketball in hand.

blog   |   August 1, 2022

Child Well-Being in Single-Parent Families