Strategies for Hard to Count Populations: Young Children

Counting everyone once, only once, and in the right place.

An estimated 5 percent of kids under the age of 5 weren’t counted in the 2010 Census. That’s about 1 million young children, the highest of any age group. We need your help closing this gap in the 2020 Census. Here’s what research tells us about why young children are missed and what you can do to help make sure they are counted.

a driving mother drops child off with fatherThe child splits time between two homes.

When a child lives or stays with another family or with another relative such as a grandparent: 

  • Emphasize that the census counts everyone where they live and sleep most of the time, even if the living arrangement is temporary or the parents of the child do not live there.
  • If the child truly spends equal amounts of time between two homes, count them where they stayed on Census Day, April 1. Coordinate with the other parent or caregiver, if possible, so the child is not counted at both homes.
  • If it’s not clear where the child lives or sleeps most of the time, count them where they stayed on Census Day, April 1.

The child lives in a lower income household.

Explain to service providers and families that responding to the census helps determine $675 billion in local funding for programs such as food stamps (also called the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program or SNAP), the National School Lunch Program, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). When children are missed in the census, these programs miss out on funding that is based on the number of children counted.

young boy in his mother's armsThe child lives in a household with young parents or a young, single mom.

  • Explain that filling out the census yourself, on your own schedule, is easier than having to respond when a census worker knocks on your door. Remind these households that the form should only take about 10 minutes to fill out and can be done online or over the phone, in addition to mailing it back.
  • Encourage moms with young children to ask other household members to count them and their children on the form if others live in the household.

The child is a newborn.

  • Emphasize that parents should include babies on census forms, even if they are still in the hospital on April 1.
  • Encourage facilities providing services to newborns to remind parents about the importance of counting their children on the census form.
  • Highlight the fact that the census form only takes about 10 minutes to complete, and parents can fill it out online or over the phone in addition to paper at a time that works best for them.

The child is part of a large, multigenerational, or includes extended or multiple families.

  • Remind the person filling out the form to count all children, including nonrelatives and children with no other place to live, even if they are only living at the address temporarily on April 1.
  • Spread the word that the census counts all people living or staying at an address, not just the person or family who owns or rents the property.

The child lives in a household that rents or recently moved.

  • Encourage renters and recent movers to complete their census forms online or over the phone, right away. That way they don’t need to worry about paper forms getting lost in the move.
  • Focus efforts on multiunit buildings that are likely to have renters.

The child lives in a household where they’re not supposed to be, for one reason or another.

  • Please explain to those that have children living in places where they aren’t allowed (for example, grandparents in a seniors-only residence that have a grandchild living with them, a family with more people, including children, than the lease allows) that they should include the children because the Census Bureau does not share information so it can’t be used against them.
  • Emphasize the Census Bureau’s legal commitment to keep census responses confidential.
  • Explain that the Census Bureau will never share information with immigration enforcement agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), law enforcement agencies like the police or Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), or allow this information to be used to determine eligibility for government benefits.

The child lives in a non-English or limited-English speaking household.

  • Conduct outreach and create resources in non-English languages that highlight the importance of counting young children.
  • Encourage non-English speakers to self-respond to the census and let them know that for the 2020 Census, the online form and telephone line will be available in 13 languages, including English. Language guides will be available in 59 languages other than English.

The child lives in a household of recent immigrants or foreign- born adults.

  • Work with community members to conduct outreach in neighborhoods with recent immigrants. Focus efforts on the community’s gathering places like local grocery stores, places of worship, and small restaurants.
  • Emphasize the Census Bureau’s legal commitment to keep census responses confidential. Explain that the Census Bureau will never share information with immigration enforcement agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), law enforcement agencies like the police or Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), or allow this information to be used to determine eligibility for government benefits.