The Changing Child Population of the United States

An Analysis of the U.S. Population Under 18 Using Data From the 2010 Census

By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

January 1, 2011


Today, the number of children (under age 18) in the United States is at an all-time high of 74.2 million. But, the percentage of the U.S. population who are under 18 is at an all time low of 24%. Based on data from the 2010 census, we find that while there is a small increase in the number of children under 18 in the US, the rate at which that population is growing has slowed dramatically over the past 20 years.

Number and Percent of Children, 1900 to 2010

All of the growth in the U.S. child population since 2000 has been among groups other than non-Hispanic whites. Children of mixed race grew at a faster rate than any other group over the past decade, from 1.9 million in 2000 to 2.8 million in 2010 (a 46% increase). The number of Hispanic children grew by 4.8 million (or 39%) between 2000 and 2010, and the number of non-Hispanic Asian and Pacific Islander children grew by nearly 800,000 (or 31%).

Changes in the child population by state ranged from a 30% increase in Nevada to a 12% decrease in Vermont and the District of Columbia. The number of minority (other than non-Hispanic white) children grew in every state except New York, Louisiana and Washington, D.C., and nearly three-quarters of the child population in the 100 largest cities belong to a racial or Hispanic minority group.

States Categorized by Percent Change in Child Population, 2000 to 2010

The recent demographic changes in the under 18 population hold many implications for the country’s future. The racial/Hispanic composition of this country is changing and children are leading the way. Download this report today to learn more about the changing demographics of the United States and its implications, based on data from the 2010 Census.

Table of Contents

Key Takeaway

Changes in the number of children in the United States

There was a relatively small increase in the number of children during the 2000 to 2010 period, as the U.S. population under 18 grew by 1.9 million. The increase was much lower than the increase during the 1990s when the child population grew by 8.7 million.

We are much less of a child-centered society now than we were 100 years ago, demographically speaking. While the number of children under age 18 rose by nearly 44 million (from 30.7 million in 1900 to 74.2 million in 2010), the number of adults grew by 189 million between 1900 and 2010 (see Table 1). The result is a child population that makes up a smaller percentage of the total population.

Changes in the number of children are interesting and informative, but the rapidly changing racial and Hispanic composition is even more compelling. Minority children, particularly Hispanics and Asians, are growing rapidly while the non-Hispanic white child population decreased by nearly 10% over the past decade.

Findings & Stats on the U.S. Population Under 18

Statements & Quotations