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Census Undercounts: Youth

As part of our commitment to a full, fair, accurate and safe 2020 Census, we’re sharing information about groups who are commonly missed by the census…and the important messages you can share to encourage participation.

The worst census undercount of any age group is, by far, children under 5. The 2010 Census missed one out of every 20 kids, and many programs – such as the National School Lunch Program or the Children’s Health Insurance Program – missed out on funding as a result. Here are a few challenges for counting young children, and messages we hope to spread in response.

Challenges: Coordination and Privacy

Often, undercount problems for children are tied to housing. Children may stay with grandparents, other relatives, or split their time between multiple homes. If so, where should the child be counted? A child living multiple places might be left out of counts in both places, with each assuming the other counted the child. Coordination is important, to ensure that the child is counted once, and only once, during the process.

Other times, the child’s guardians are hesitant to share personal information. Some are concerned about endangering their eligibility for government programs, and others are worried about citizenship status or immigration enforcement. Still others fear that their information will be released and used by an estranged or abusive ex-partner to track them down.

Messages to Spread

  • Children should be counted in the household where they live or sleep most of the time, even if their parents live elsewhere.
  • If a child’s time between multiple homes is evenly divided, if they’re a newborn still in the hospital, or if you aren’t sure where they stay most often, count them where they will be staying on April 1, 2020.
  • Census responses are protected by federal law and can’t be shared with anyone, including individuals, immigration enforcement, or other government agencies.
  • The census takes approximately 10 minutes and is completely free.

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