This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Sunday, May 1, 2016

There Are More Children in the U.S. Than We Thought

There is almost constant angst in the rich countries of the world about low birth rates and the potentially dwindling number of children who need to grow up and support the rest of us in old age. Indeed, this week's Economist has an article reviewing that theme. But there's some good news, if you want to think about it this way, from a report released this week by Child Trends (authored by demographer William O'Hare). It shows that the 2010 Census in the U.S. undercounted young children more than we might have thought. Now, to be fair, the overall census undercount in the 2010 census was essentially zero, when you combine people who were counted more than once (who are disproportionately non-Hispanic white homeowners), and those who were not counted at all (who are disproportionately black and Hispanic renters). The 2010 post-enumeration survey estimated that undercount among Hispanics was about 1%, but the Child Trends report suggests that about 5% of children under age 5 were left out of the census, and they were disprortionately Hispanic. Since a large share of those missed seem to be here in California, the LA Times covered the story, although the report was released at a Capitol Hill briefing aimed clearly at influencing decisions about the 2020 Census.
Author William O’Hare, a social and health psychology researcher who used to work for the Census Bureau, compared birth, death and immigration records in each county to the county level results of the 2010 census.
He and the study's other authors found that the Census Bureau should have identified more than 21 million Americans 4 or younger in 2010, but only counted about 20 million. Of those missing million people, about 40% were Latino, he said.
About three-fourths of the uncounted children live in California, Texas, Florida, Arizona or New York, according to the study.
O’Hare said the undercount is likely caused by the high number of Latino families living in rentals, in high poverty areas or in complex living arrangements where a child might not live with a legal guardian — all situations that traditionally make it harder for the census to count people.
But he said the Census Bureau needs to do more research to understand why the children aren’t being counted. He said some adults may not understand that children should be included in the census answers or are afraid to respond over fears of how it might affect their own legal status, even if the child is a legal resident.
The report admits that solutions to the problem are not easy to sort out, but this almost certainly will be factored into planning for the 2020 Census. In the meantime, we can celebrate the fact that we have more kids than we thought. Now we have to make sure they get a good education. 

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