Undercounting Young Children in the U.S. Census

Mar 09, 2010

By Teresa Lim

As data collection for the 2010 Census moves forward, early childhood providers can play a vital role in promoting awareness among families about the importance of filling out a Census form. The Census Bureau has released a toolkit for parents and child care providers containing various outreach materials. In addition, the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) has created a webpage with background information on the census count and other useful handouts and links.

Informing families is particularly important given that children historically have been undercounted. Young children in particular have the highest rate of undercounting of any age group.  The 2000 Census missed more than three-quarters of a million children under the age of five, or about 4 percent of this age group. The Annie E. Casey Foundation released a report, which further explores the reasons the Census misses young children. The report observes that there are multiple challenges in reaching households with young children. Minority children and children in hard-to-count neighborhoods are undercounted the most often.

The Census is critical. The count informs how more than $400 billion in federal funds are distributed to communities and programs, including those serving young children. Improving the Census count of young children is crucial to providing an accurate portrait of families. It is also important to ensuring that the federal government directs resources to communities and families that need them the most.  

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