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Census Count 2020: Don't Forget the Little Ones

Some 10% of Missouri children younger than age 5 live in census tracts deemed "hard to count." (
Some 10% of Missouri children younger than age 5 live in census tracts deemed "hard to count." (
January 29, 2020

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The 2020 census kicks off in about two months, and there's a lot on the line for some of Missouri's most vulnerable residents -- especially children.

The results of the count will determine Missouri's allocation of federal funds over the next decade. Children younger than 18 account for roughly 22% of all Missourians, so John Shikles, director of census operations in Gov. Mike Parson's office, said if children are missed in the 2020 tally, the state will miss out on crucial federal dollars.

"We don't want people to forget their littlest ones," he said. "Counting our children means education, child care, roads, bridges, infrastructure - for the next 10 years. And we just don't want Missouri's children to be left out of that national picture."

According to Missouri Kids Count, a program of Missouri's Family and Community Trust, 18% of children in the state live in poverty, and many rely on federally supported nutrition assistance and the Children's Health Insurance Program. Nationally, nearly 5% of kids younger than age 5 were not counted in the last census.

Missouri will lose roughly $1,300 a year for each adult and child not included in the 2020 census, and Shikles said some people simply forget to include kids in their count.

"Newborns may still be in the hospital; people might just not think that they need to count their newborn," he said. "There are children in foster care. There are children that are going back and forth between parents. There are children living with their grandparents. And I think that causes a lot of confusion."

Shikles said the Missouri 2020 Complete Count Committee is working with community partners around the state to educate people about the census count and dispel misconceptions.

"A lot of people of all demographics see it as 'Big Brother' - they're worried about the government spying on them, or coming and taking something from them, or they just generally want to be left alone," he said. "So, we have to let people know that it's safe to respond to the census and that your information is confidential."

The 2010 census revealed that Missouri's population growth lagged behind other states. As a result, the state lost a congressional seat and hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding.

Disclosure: Missouri Kids Count contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Poverty Issues, Youth Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - MO