Counting Every Person: taking action for a fair, professional, nonpartisan Census

The 2020 Census will be here soon. It is crucial that every person is counted, but there are some things standing in our way. The Resource Center is concerned about the issue of the undercount of young children in the Census. This alone is a problem; and we have another concern with the addition of a question about citizenship to the Census.

We’re taking action because this matters to Prince George’s County.

Every year, more than $800 billion in federal funds is allocated to states and localities based on census data.[i] This includes programs that matter to Maryland, and to Prince George’s County. The amount of funding distributed to our community depends on the numbers of children and numbers of children in need, and the Census helps officials to know what numbers to work with!

If we have an undercount, we have less investment, but these children and families are still here, and these program investments are still important to our community. This includes the Child Care and Development Block Grant, Head Start, Title I and Special Education (IDEA) grants to schools, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), WIC, Foster Care, Medicaid, and housing assistance. These are no small matters. If many young children are missed, how will our community know where to build schools or add classrooms? How will officials know where to build health centers and provide medical services? How will businesses know the demand for grocery stores and other retail and services?

We join our colleagues across the country in urging the U.S. Department of Commerce to remove the citizenship status question because of its probable significant reduction in the number of Census responses. In the current environment, millions of families with young children who have at least one immigrant member are likely to be concerned about this question and may not fill out the Census to avoid drawing attention to their immigrant status. This makes the undercount problem even bigger. Every person should be counted, and to make that happen, every voice counts!

You can take action too! Deadline August 7

The U.S. Department of Commerce has asked for public comments on the Census form to be used in the 2020 Census.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights set up a way to submit your comments online, urging the removal of the citizenship question from the 2020 Census and asking the Census to be conducted in a fair, professional, and nonpartisan manner.

Here’s what the message says:

I strongly urge the Commerce Department to remove the citizenship question from the 2020 Census form. Including an untested, controversial question will undermine the quality and accuracy of the census in every community. The Census Bureau’s own Chief Scientist warned of lower response, higher costs, and a less accurate census if the citizenship question is included. Including a citizenship question puts the census at grave risk of a significant undercount, especially among hard-to-reach population groups that already are fearful of answering government surveys, according to the bureau’s own research. The public should not be asked to answer, or pay for, a census that does not meet scientifically sound standards, in order to achieve partisan, political goals. The addition of this question is a blatant attempt to undermine the 2020 Census – this decision is bad for the census, bad for our communities, and bad for America.

Please submit your comments by August 7

What’s the big deal?

Thank you to our colleagues at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights for the following information to help us understand the facts and the challenges of counting children and families. Get this and more in a pdf fact sheet.

Did you know? The 2010 Census missed nearly one in ten children aged 0-4, or about 2 million children; the net young child undercount (after accounting for duplications) was nearly 5% or almost one million children.[ii] Young children had by far the worst undercount of any age group. This trend of missing young children has been growing over the last several Decennial Censuses even as our ability to count other age groups has improved.[iii]

Why are young children undercounted? Young children are generally undercounted for a variety of reasons. These include:

    • Almost 4.5 million children under age five live in hard-to-count neighborhoods.[iv]
    • It is widely believed that poor households are difficult to enumerate,[v] and young children have a higher
      poverty rate than any other age group.
    • Some young children may go uncounted because they live in large households. In 2010, nearly a quarter of young children lived in households of six
      or more people.
    • Some young children have complicated living arrangements, moving often among various relatives or caregivers. Foster children, children living
      with grandparents or other relatives, and children whose parents are cohabiting but not married are also more likely to be missed. A recent study
      found 40 percent of all children under age five lived in a household with complex living arrangements.[vi]
      The figures are higher for Black children (50 percent) and Latino children (55 percent). Young children in complex households may be left off the
      Census questionnaires because respondents are uncertain whether to include a young child as a household resident.
    • Language barriers also contribute to the undercount of young children in households. In 2010, one-quarter of young Latino children lived in a
      linguistically isolated household where adults had difficulty speaking English.[viii] It has been shown that
      language limitations cause respondents to report in error on the census questionnaire.[ix]



[i]Counting for Dollars 2020, The Role of the Decennial Census in the Geographic Distribution of Federal Funds

Report #2: Estimating Fiscal Costs of a Census Undercount to States,

[ii]  KIDS COUNT Data Book 2018,, citing

[iii] The Undercount of Young Children, 2014,

[iv] KIDS COUNT Data Book 2018 citing U.S. Census Bureau, 2012–16 American Community Survey.

[v] Fernandez, L., Shattuck, R. and Noon, J. (2018), The Use of Administrative Records and the American Community Survey to Study the Characteristics of Undercounted Young Children in the 2010 Census, U.S. Census Bureau Center, CARRA Working Paper Series. Working Paper Series #2018 – 05, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC.

[vi] Jensen, E. (2017) Presentation at the Children’s Leadership Council – Census Bureau meeting, April 13, 2017, Washington DC.

[vii] O’Hare, W.P. (2015) The Undercount of Young Children in the U.S. Census, Springer Publishers, Page 95.

[viii] U.S. Census Bureau (2017). Investigating the 2010 Undercount of Young Children – A Comparison of Demographic, Housing, and Household Characteristics of Children by Age, January 18, 2017.

[ix] U.S. Census Bureau (2017). Investigating the 2010 Undercount of Young Children – A Comparison of Demographic, Housing, and Household Characteristics of Children by Age, January 18, 2017.