Young Children and the 2020 Census

Young Children and the 2020 Census

The Decennial Census happens every ten years and it is the only time we count everyone–adults, children and babies, citizens, immigrants, and visitors. Census data informs the allocation of federal, state, and local dollars, and states, localities, and businesses use census data for community planning, including where to open new stores and distribute school funding.

Yet, in 2010,  nearly 10% of young children under the age of 5 were missed, the most significant undercount in the Census, resulting in states losing over a half billion a year. [1]  Undercounting children in the Census threatens access to resources for children and families such as housing, jobs, equitable education, and health care. Early childhood funders also face obstacles in advocating for children and families when Census data is unreliable and misrepresents demographic data.

The impact of the 2020 Census will last a decade, because every Census survey sets the sampling process based on population data established by the Decennial Census. [2]  Facing budget constraints, the Census Bureau is planning to collect a majority of census information online, scaling back door-to-door outreach and canvassing.  These changes increase the potential of missing young children, minorities, low-income individuals and other marginalized individuals.

Why are Young Children Undercounted?

Young children are missed for different reasons than adults.  While adults are often missed in the Census because they don’t return Census forms, 4 out of 5 children are missed because adults who do return Census forms don’t count their young children.  Research also shows children at high risk of being missed include: children of color, children in linguistically isolated households, and children living in complex housing situations (e.g. grandparent householders; households including other family members or unrelated people; families without permanent housing staying with friends/family; families living in rentals or recently moving).  Children in complex housing situations are at high risk of being missed particularly when the person filling out the form is not their parent.  Fear and confusion about including young children might also contribute to adults not counting children (e.g. afraid they have too many people, living in senior citizens housing).

Learn more about the young child undercount and what EC funders can do to elevate the importance of this issue and prepare for the 2020 Census:


5 Things Early Childhood Funders Can Do, ECFC Feature, June 2019

Examples of Funder Actions on Counting All Kids, ECFC Feature, June 2019

Young Children and the Census Undercount, a conversation with the Partnership for America’s Children for EC Funders, ECFC Webinar Archive, June 2019

Counting Young Children in the 2020 Census: Strategy and Resources, Count All Kids, June 24th webinar archive 

Count All Kids, Census 2020 – Partnership for America’s Children, Sign up for updates, tools, resources and a list of Census advocates in your area.  [Facebook] [Twitter – #CountAllKids]
The Undercount of Young Children, United States Census Bureau  

NALEO Educational Fund Back to School Resource Guide.  Free downloadable presentations and social media guide for parents, teachers and educators to prepare them to be advocates for a more accurate count of young children in 2020, including a special focus on the undercount of Latino children in the 2010 Census.  

Funder Census Tools and Resources

Why an accurate count matters to philanthropy – United Philanthropy Forum

Funders Census Initiative 2020 (FCI) – Launched by the Funders Committee  for Civic Participation. The FCI Funders Toolkit  includes information on contributing public comments related to the citizenship question, key milestones to know about, fact sheets, funder strategies, and a recommended plan of action. 

Funder Q&A with Gary Bass, The Bauman Foundation, Leader of the Democracy Funders Collaborative Census Subgroup, CYF  Funders Roundtable feature. 

National Census Advocacy Campaign

Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Census 2020 hub organization

Complete Count Committees  [U.S. Census Bureau]  [National Council of State Legislatures]