In the past, children under age 5 have been one of the most undercounted populations in the U.S. Census, which is conducted every 10 years. The 2020 Census team is working to stop this from happening again in the upcoming year. They stress that every child needs to be counted, because those numbers help our lawmakers determine where and how federal and state funds are spent on programs that benefit kids and their families.
Nearly 1 million children were not counted in the 2010 Census, a statistic the Census Bureau does not want to repeat. The Bureau is working to make sure all households know that young children need to be counted if they live or sleep in a home most of the time. Babies born on or before April 1, 2020 should be counted in the 2020 Census as well.
Accurate counts benefit child-focused programs in the community
When all children are accounted for in the census, programs are able to be adequately funded to meet the needs of a community. According to the Census Bureau website, lawmakers allocate funds by census numbers and “Much of that money funds programs that directly affect children. They include nutrition assistance, Head Start, special education, foster care, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program and housing assistance to help a child’s family.” The data also helps municipalities determine whether they need to allocate money for things like new libraries, schools, or hospitals.
If all children are not accounted for, communities run the risk of not having enough funds to meet the needs of all their members. The Census Bureau reports that there are many reasons why children under 5 may not be reported. If you or someone you know fits one or more of the categories below, you might be at an increased risk for your family members being undercounted.
- Transient home life. Foster families, families who move often or are temporarily staying somewhere other than a permanent residence are less likely to accurately account for who is living in their home.
- Living outside tenant rules/regulations: Families living in subsidized housing with more people in a household than they have reported may be reluctant to report additional children.
- Immigration status: In today’s climate, families who do not have U.S. citizenship may be afraid to report their household numbers.
- Alternative living situations: Children who live in more than one household at a time or live with other family members or friends are often not counted. If they live in a home the majority of the time, they should be reported.
There are no repercussions for accurate reporting
The Census Bureau assures everyone that there is no need to worry about reporting, as all 2020 Census responses are protected by law and completely confidential. “They cannot be shared with any law enforcement or immigration agency such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE),” the Census Bureau reminds the public. “And responses, of course, are never shared with landlords or any other individual. The information collected is used only to produce statistics.”
Make sure you fill out your census forms in the coming year — the future of our children depends on it. Ashley Austin, the Census Bureau’s Communications Lead for Counting Young Children in the 2020 Census, explains, “Missing children in the census affects the community for the next 10 years. We want the programs that help support the foundations children need to be available during their formative years.”