Recent Census Bureau Event in Cleveland Ohio Focused on the High Undercount of Young Children in the U.S Census

By William P. O’Hare, President, O’Hare Data and Demographic Services LLC

On Saturday February 22, the Census Bureau sponsored an event in Cleveland, Ohio, to launch a nationwide effort to make sure all young children are counted in the 2020 Census. The event was held at the beautiful Great Lakes Science Center on the shores of Lake Erie. The first hour of the event was a set of announcements and presentations, and then there was a three hour block of time when families and children could engage in census-related activities and/or pick-up some 2020 Census promotional material such as pens, bibs, sippy cups, etc.

The event started with a choir from a local elementary school singing the ‘We Count’ census song. Then Dr. Kirsten Ellenbogen, President and CEO of the Great Lakes Science Center, provided a countdown of the top five reasons why it is important to make sure every young child is counted in the Census.

Dr. Ellebogen was followed by the Director of the Census Bureau, Dr. Steven Dillingham, who covered some of the reasons why counting young children is such a high priority in the 2020 Census, including the key fact that children age 0 to 4 had a higher net undercount than any other age group in the 2010 Census. Dr. Dillingham also reviewed some of the reasons why young children are missed and some of the changes the Census Bureau has made to the 2020 Census operations and communications campaigns to try and get a more accurate count of young children.

Dr. Judy Aschner, Chairperson of the Federation of Pediatric Organizations, talked about the how important it was to count young children in the Census because so much brain development takes place in the first five years of life and young children need all the support they can get. She pointed out that if a young child is missed in the Census, they are missed for the next ten years and that is the majority of their childhood. Dr. Achner also announced her organization would be launching a nationwide effort on March 25, to make sure every young child is included in the Census

Mr. August A. Napoli of the Greater Cleveland United Way covered many of the ways the census count is linked to programs that help children and programs that support needy families. He also pointed out that because minority children are missed at a higher rate, the children most in need of help often do not get their fair share.

Finally, Ms. Tracy Garrett from the Sesame Workshop reminded the audience that Sesame Street has been involved in promoting the Decennial Census since 1980.  Ms. Garrett also described the ways Sesame Workshop will be helping in the 2020 Census including making some of the Sesame Street characters available for the remainder of the event in Cleveland.

The audience included representatives from child advocacy groups and non-profit organizations in the Cleveland area as well as representatives from the KIDS COUNT network and the Partnership for America’s children network in Ohio. Dr. William O’Hare represented the Count All Kids National Complete Count Committee for young children.

The event in Cleveland follows on the heels of another recent event focused on improving the count of young children in the 2020 Census. On February 5, 2020, the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) released a census tract level database where all the census tracts in 689 large counties were categorized into very high risk of young children being undercounted, high risk of young children being undercounted, and low risk of young children being undercounted.

The information from the tract-level database has been incorporated into the widely used CUNY HTC mapping application. On February 13, there was a webinar going over the data in the database and how to use the information incorporated into the CUNY mapping application.

The PRB analysis found a higher net undercount of young children in the largest counties (those with 250,000 people or more in 2010) is most closely associated with the following variables;

  • Percent of adults ages 18 to 34 with less than a high school diploma, GED, or alternative
  • Percent of children under age 18 living in a female-headed household with no spouse present
  • Percent of children under age 6 living with a grandparent as householder
  • Percent of households that are linguistically isolated (No one ages 14+ speaks English “very well”
  • Percent of children under age 18 who are in immigrant families (child is foreign-born or at least one parent is foreign-born)
  • Percent of persons living in renter-occupied households.

They found more than 4 million young children live in census tracts where there is a very high risk of young children being undercounted. Black and Hispanic children are over-represented in those census tracts.