The Changing Child Population of the United States

Child Population Data From the 2020 Census

Posted April 3, 2023
By William O'Hare and Yeris H. Mayol-Garcia for the Annie E. Casey Foundation
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The United States is a wonderfully diverse nation, and its child population represents a kaleidoscope of races and nationalities. For all children to thrive, the basic needs of every young person — from every demographic group — must be met.

This child population report matters because it provides valuable information on demographic changes, such as the declining number of children and its implications for the labor force and education sector. Policymakers can use this information to make informed decisions on investing in children's education to ensure that the nation has enough skilled workers to keep the economy going strong. The report also highlights the disparities in educational outcomes for children of color, emphasizing the need for investment in all children to maximize their employability. Additionally, the report explores the relationship between child population growth and child outcomes, providing insights for policymakers on the best strategies to improve child well-being.

Number and Percentage of Children in the United States from 1900 to 2020

Findings About Children From the 2020 Census

This report — released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation — compares 2020 census results to historical child population data. It explores how the U.S. child population is decreasing in size, increasing in diversity and changing substantially at the state and city levels.

Among the changes highlighted in the publication:

  • The nation’s child population count fell from 74.2 million in 2010 to 73.1 million in 2020. During this same time-frame, 27 states plus Puerto Rico saw their total child count fall.
  • Children of color are taking up an increasingly larger share of the total child population. These children grew from representing just 26% of all kids in 1980 to 53% in 2020.
  • The total headcount for children of color grew in 46 states plus the District of Columbia, and this statistic grew fastest in three states — Texas, Florida and Washington.

About the 2020 Census Data

In August 2021, the U.S. Census Bureau released its 2020 census redistricting data files. These files provide detailed racial and Hispanic origin data for the nation’s total population and adult population. Child population data (representing the years from birth to age 17) was calculated by subtracting the relevant adult population count from the total population count.

Related Resources

The previous version of this report — The Changing Child Population: An Analysis of the U.S. Population Under 18 Using Data From the 2010 Census — is still available.

Additional related resources:

Findings & Stats

Statements & Quotations

Key Takeaway

U.S. Child Population Is Decreasing and Becoming More Racially And Ethnically Diverse

One of the biggest stories from the 2020 census is the growing racial and ethnic diversity of children in the United States. Today, children of color represent a 53% majority share of the US child population, and more children than ever before identify as multiracial, non-Hispanic white. Because population trends have strongly influenced the social, economic and demographic fabric of the United States, the shifting child population represents challenges as well as opportunities for policymakers.

For example, a decrease in children means a future decrease in the labor market. This, in turn, marks an increase in the importance of kids’ educational outcomes so that they can become viable workers, creating a greater need for funding education. Learn about this and more in the report.