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Advocates Say Census Undercount Would Impact Well-Being of NY Children

Census figures affect federal funding for programs such as school lunches and children's health insurance. (akshayapatra/Pixabay)
Census figures affect federal funding for programs such as school lunches and children's health insurance. (akshayapatra/Pixabay)
June 27, 2018

ALBANY, N.Y. – The latest figures on the well being of children show little change in New York, but child advocates fear trouble ahead.

While most indicators remained unchanged or showed improvement, the Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book shows the Empire State slipped from 30th to 31st in the overall well-being of children.

Laura Speer, an associate director at the Foundation, is concerned that including a controversial citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census will discourage immigrants from participating and lead to an under count of children, especially in states such as New York with large immigrant populations.

"All people, including kids, have the right to be counted and represented,” she stresses. “But without any real political or economic power, kids rely on adults to protect and advocate for them, and they can't fill out the census forms."

Census figures are used to determine levels of federal support for child-focused programs from school lunches to children's health insurance.

The Census is intended to count everyone living in the United States, not just citizens.

Robert Scardamalia, former chief demographer for New York state, notes that an undercount in 2020 would have repercussions for the next decade.

"Accurate and complete data in the census is the benchmark for our country in congressional reapportionment, state and local redistricting, funds distribution, simply understanding who we are as a population," he explains.

Scardamalia adds that an undercount in the census would affect not only the state's immigrant community, but every New Yorker.

Speer says with more than 14 million children living in poverty nationwide, and almost 850,000 in New York alone, getting the numbers right is critical.

"It's important that we step up to make sure that kids of all races and ethnicities are counted in the census, and that they will have what they need to thrive," she stresses.

New York currently receives more than $10 billion a year in federal funds that support programs for children.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY