A decade ago, I was a mother of two young boys (a 1 year-old and 4-year-old) in my first home. Also, during this time, it was the 2010 U.S. Census, which aims to count every person in U.S. households.
Well, it’s happening again: the 2020 U.S. Census will be sent out later this month.
Now, some of you might have heard about the debate and chatter in the past year regarding changes to the 2020 questionnaire (it was decided the citizenship question will not be on the forms). However, have you heard about why it’s important to get an accurate count, especially for parents and children?
There is a movement for the 2020 U.S.Census to make sure to count every child, especially the youngest ages, infant to 5. In the previous census, an estimated 4 percent, or 1 million children, were missed.
Surprisingly, this isn’t a new issue, according to Steven Dillingham, director of the U.S. Census Bureau. It dates back to the 1970s; however, little research has been done to document why this was occurring.
A Task Force on the Undercount of Young Children Research team in 2013 studied data and issued a report in 2015 on this topic.
While the study couldn’t pinpoint an exact reason or cause, the results did provide potential problem areas — one factor could be a complex family life.
For example, kids might have been missed or not counted because they were living in households with multiple families, or living with grandparents or relatives or those who are adopted or homeless, children who move between households or living in rentals or young children who were born a few months prior to census. Also, children in minority groups such as Hispanic families were at high risk for going uncounted.
The Great Lakes Science Center hosted an event last month to bring awareness of the impact of an undercount.
“In general agreement, the more complex a household is, the greater risk a child may not be included in the completion census questionnaire,” Dillingham says. “(The undercount) impacts the community in different ways.”
This includes determinations for funding for programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), housing and education programs, National School Lunch program, Head Start, foster care and child care programs.
Augie Napoli, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Cleveland, says an accurate count helps low-income families.
“We here in Cleveland have a crisis in our community — approximately 51 percent of children live in poverty,” he says. “The count helps families stay healthy, stay fed and stay ready to succeed.”
Dillingham says to help better address the undercounted children, they did change the wording of the 2020 Census and improved training.
So, what could you do, as parents, to help with the count? Stay informed and when the Census questionnaire comes to your door (it can be done by online, mail, or phone), make sure everyone in your household is counted.
A version of this column appeared in the March 2020 print issue of Northeast Ohio Parent magazine as the monthly “Editor’s Note.”