Young Children and Their Families In the 2020 Census

The decennial census is the most inclusive civic activity in our country, covering every person in every household. The U.S. Constitution requires an accurate count of the nation’s population every ten years. Moreover, the census is integral to our democracy. The data collected every 10 years affects our nation’s ability to ensure equal representation and equal access to important governmental and private sector resources for all Americans, including across racial and ethnic lines. Census results are used to allocate seats and draw district lines for the U.S. House of Representatives, state legislatures, and local boards; to target more than $800 billion annually in federal assistance to states, localities, and families; and to guide community decision-making affecting schools, housing, health care services, business investment and much more. These functions depend on a fair and accurate census.

Unfortunately, certain population groups — referred to as “hard-to-count” — are at a higher risk of not being fully counted in the decennial census. Some of these groups have been historically underrepresented in the decennial census for decades; some may experience new or increased vulnerability due to major changes in methodology, such as relying on the internet as the primary way for households to respond to the 2020 Census; and some may be reluctant to respond due to concerns about data confidentiality. Being hard-to-count can lead to unequal political representation and unequal access to vital public and private resources for these groups and their communities.

Young children are undercounted in the census at a higher rate than any other age group

Young children — defined as children under age five — have been undercounted for decades, disadvantaging their families, communities, and neighborhoods. In the 2010 Census, the net undercount rate for young children was 4.6 percent, and more than 2.2 million in this age group were not included in the census results. This is a higher net undercount rate than for any other age group. Even among other children, those under five years old are more likely to be missing from census data.

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