New analysis suggests 2020 Census undercounted people of color and young children  

Written by: Children's Campaign
Date Posted: November 5, 2021

Although official U.S. Census Bureau estimates of the accuracy of the 2020 Census are still months away, an analysis from the Urban Institute released this week suggests the once-a-decade count may have undercounted children under 5 and people of color at rates higher than those observed in the 2010 Census.  

The analysis estimates that the 2020 Census undercounted the total population by 0.5%, a higher level of accuracy than many anticipated given the challenges the 2020 count faced. For some demographic groups, however, the estimated net undercount was significantly higher. The Urban Institute’s analysis estimates that young children under age 5, historically the age group most likely to be undercounted in the census, were undercounted in 2020 by 4.86%. The study also estimates that Black and Hispanic/Latino people were undercounted by 2.45% and 2.17%, respectively, and that households with a non-citizen present were likely undercounted by more than 3.3%. 

The 2020 Census faced unprecedented challenges to an accurate count. In addition to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and stay-at-home orders just as the Census Bureau was planning to begin the count, significant underfunding by Congress and efforts by the Trump administration to undermine the count by adding a citizenship question to the questionnaire also dealt massive blows to the Census Bureau’s ability to count more than 300 million Americans accurately. 

The anticipated undercount of young children—and children of color, in particular—in the 2020 Census is especially troubling. The decennial census is used to allocate billions of dollars in funding for programs that support kids and families, and when kids are undercounted, their communities do not receive fair and adequate amounts of funding to serve children and their caregivers. The federal government must invest in efforts to understand and reduce barriers to counting young kids as it begins preparations for the next census in 2030. 

Click here to read NPR’s coverage of the Urban Institute analysis or here to read the study in full.  

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The Colorado Children’s Campaign is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization committed since 1985 to realizing every chance for every child in Colorado. We advocate for the development and implementation of data-driven public policies that improve child wellbeing in health, education and early childhood. We do this by providing Coloradans with trusted data and research on child wellbeing and organizing an extensive state-wide network of dedicated child advocates. For more information, please visit www.coloradokids.org.