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Census: Counting All Kids Critical for PA

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Experts say the undercount of children in the census has more than tripled since 1980. (Driftwood/Adobe Stock)
Experts say the undercount of children in the census has more than tripled since 1980. (Driftwood/Adobe Stock)
September 11, 2019

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Counting every child will ensure that Pennsylvania gets the federal aid it needs. That's the message advocates for children are sending in the lead-up to the 2020 census.

Federal funding for programs from health insurance to school aid depend on how many children are counted in the census. But in 2010, those up to age 4 were the most undercounted of all age groups. According to Kari King, president and chief executive of the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, that undercount made a big difference in the Keystone State.

"Since that time," she said, "Pennsylvania has lost $44 million in federal funding each year, just in five key programs that impact kids."

Those include funding for child care, foster care, adoption and special education.

Nationwide, nearly 1 million children were left out of the 2010 U.S. census. Both in rural and densely populated urban areas, children are harder to count, and King pointed out that children who aren't living with their biological parents also are more likely to be left out of the census.

"We're driving out materials on our social media and on our website," she said, "to really promote awareness and make sure that in those situations, children are being counted."

Children of younger parents or who are living in low-income or non-English-speaking households also are more likely to be undercounted.

Although the citizenship question promoted by the Trump administration won't appear on the 2020 census, the controversy surrounding it has had a lasting impact, especially in immigrant communities. However, King said it shouldn't prevent anyone from participating.

"No one should fear taking the census and quite the opposite," she said. "It is so important that everybody takes the census, without fear of any type of retribution for doing so."

She added that a child missed in the 2020 census may go uncounted for 10 years, until the next national census takes place.

More information is online at papartnerships.org.

Disclosure: Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children/KIDS COUNT contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Early Childhood Education, Education, Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA