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.  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.  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).