Congressional Briefing Spotlights How the Census Undercounts Young Children

In 2010, one out of every ten American children under the age of 5 was overlooked, missed, uncounted in the decennial Census. That was the sobering finding offered by experts from both inside and outside of government at an October 30, 2017 hearing on Capitol Hill entitled, “Making Sure Kids Count in the Big Count:  Census 2020,” sponsored by the Population Association of America.

 

PAA Member Dr. William O’Hare speaks at briefing

PAA Member Dr. William O’Hare speaks at briefing

Speaking to a packed room of congressional staff, think tank specialists and representatives of Washington-based associations, demographer Dr. William P. O’Hare summarized compelling data that show that young children are the most undercounted age group in the decennial enumeration—and Hispanic children are the most undercounted within that group, followed closely by African American children.  Yet not all children are undercounted; in fact, older adolescents are somewhat over-represented. But perhaps most troubling of all is the fact that the undercounting of young children grew progressively worse over the three decennial censuses that have taken place since 1980.  Click here to view the slides from Dr. O’Hare’s presentation.

The Census Bureau, for its part, is fully aware of the problem and is devoting resources to ensure that this trend is reversed in 2020, according to Burton Reist, Chief of Communications for the Decennial Census at the U.S. Census Bureau. Reist gave the audience a broad overview of the operating plan for the 2020 Census, which includes a Coverage Improvement Team that is charged with, among other goals, devising strategies to ensure that fewer young children are missed in 2020. Click here to view the slides from Reist’s presentation.

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From L-R: William O’Hare, Corrine Yu (LCCHR), Burton Reist (Census) and Scott Konicki (Census)

The briefing was moderated by Corrine Yu, esq., of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (LCCHR), one of the nation’s oldest civil rights groups, which has identified an accurate census for 2020 as one of their top policy goals. As Yu framed it, ”Because the accuracy of the census directly affects our nation’s ability to ensure equal representation and equal access to important governmental resources for all Americans…ensuring a fair and accurate census [is] one of the most significant civil rights issues facing the country today.”

The briefing attracted more than 85 participants, and generated interest in the topic beyond Capitol Hill on Twitter at #CountKids2020. It was co-sponsored by several organizations: the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Association of Population Centers, the Association of Public Data Users, the Consortium of Social Science Associations, the Council for Professional Associations on Federal Statistics, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Population Reference Bureau, and The Census Project. More information can be found here.

 

William O’Hare Presentation Slides
Burton Reist Presentation Slides