Early Childhood

Census Could Miss Counting Vulnerable Children, Advocacy Group Warns

By Christina A. Samuels — June 27, 2018 2 min read
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The 2010 census didn’t account for 1 million children under the age of 5, and there’s a high risk that the 2020 census could miss even more children—a problem the country would have to live with for a decade, said the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation, an advocacy organization.

The warning came as part of the foundation’s annual Kids Count data book released Wednesday, which tracks child well-being in four domains: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. Overall, child economic well-being is on the rise compared to previous years, but the other indicators tracked by the foundation showed more mixed outcomes.

The foundation noted that many children might not be counted because they have complex living arrangements; for example, they’re living with nonrelatives, or their families are experiencing homelessness. Or, they might live in high-poverty areas where rental and multi-unit housing is dominant and mobility is high.

The Trump administration also plans to include a question on the census asking if respondents are U.S. citizens. It is illegal to share a person’s census responses with law enforcement or immigration agencies, but the question, advocates fear, may suppress participation by immigrants.

More than 300 federal programs, including Title I funding, Head Start, Child Care and Development block grants, and the school lunch program, rely on census data when allocating funds. “If we don’t count children, we render their needs invisible and their futures uncertain,” said Casey Foundation President and CEO Patrick McCarthy, in a statement. The foundation recommends allocating more resources to the Census Bureau itself, fully funding state and local outreach efforts, and addressing privacy concerns of respondents.

Economic Well-Being of Children on the Rise

The data book itself uses information collected in 2016 and 2017 from the U.S. Census Bureau, the federal Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Department of Education and other sources.

Compared to 2010, fewer children live in poverty, have parents who lack secure employment, are living in household with a high cost-of-housing burden, or are teens who are neither in school nor working. For the education indicators, however, while more 4th-graders are proficient in reading and fewer teens are graduating late for high school, over the several years there’s been no change in the percentage of 8th graders who are proficient in math or the percentage of 3- and 4-year-olds attending preschool.

The five states with the top indicators for child well-being were, in order: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Iowa. The five states with the lowest ranking, in order, were Alaska, Nevada, Mississippi, Louisiana, and New Mexico. Mississippi, however, saw slight improvements in almost every indicator, the foundation noted. Its rank, 48th out of the 50 states, is its highest standing since 1991.

Image source: Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2018 Kids Count Data Book

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.