Already underway, the 2020 Census will be the 24th United States Census since its inception in 1790. Mandated by the Constitution, the Census is meant to count every living person in the United States. The Census is used to provide critical data that informs policy and government funding for crucial services, like schools, hospitals, and fire departments, among others.
Why does this matter to our youngest learners and their families?
Estimates from the 2010 Census put the undercount at or above 1 million children under age 5. In our home state of Illinois alone, there is concern that over 100,000 people will be undercounted, many of those being children under the age of 5, along with black, Latinx, and retired populations.
Undercounting has major implications for the organizations and communities that provide much-needed services and quality early education and care for infants and toddlers. Knowing how many young children live in a community influences how funding is allocated for programs like Head Start and Early Head Start, pre-K, nutrition assistance, Medicaid and much more.
Why are so many children undercounted?
Some families live in hard-to-count areas, while others forget to include the youngest members of their families as part of their households. This is true especially for blended or multi-generational families, where children may live with their caregivers part-time. Other barriers include a lack of non-English language resources and a fear among immigrant communities that their information might be shared with police or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (it will not). But the primary reason for undercounting is a lack of clear information and educational resources.
What can you do to help?
- First, start by making sure you and your family participate in the 2020 Census!
- Second, share information with your friends, family, and community to explain the purpose of the Census and clarify misconceptions and misinformation. Visit the 2020 Census web site to view helpful fact sheets, take the pledge to be counted and ideas for spreading the word via social media.
- Remind your friends, neighbors and community members that the Census will not collect information on citizenship and will not ask for social security numbers, credit card numbers, money or donations.
- Are you part of an organization and looking for ways to help? Check out our guide for organizations and advocates.
As the Ounce, we understand the long-term positive outcomes for children who get the best quality care and education, starting from birth. The consequences of a Census undercount can create barriers to early education access that can affect children for years to come.
Ashley Austin, the Census Bureau’s Communications Lead for Counting Young Children in the 2020 Census, notes that “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.” 1
We encourage you to get counted and spread the word!
- United States Census Bureau. (2019). Children Under 5 Among Most Undercounted in Last Census. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2019/11/big-push-to-count-every-newborn-young-child-2020-census.html