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Census Day is Here: Let's Count All Kids

Indiana kids benefit from federal funding that is allocated based on U.S. Census data. (Adobe Stock)
Indiana kids benefit from federal funding that is allocated based on U.S. Census data. (Adobe Stock)
April 1, 2020

INDIANAPOLIS -- Today is Census Day and the coronavirus crisis isn't stopping the once-a-decade count of Americans. Millions of federal dollars are at risk if every child isn't counted, and nearly 2 million kids age 5 and younger were missed in the 2010 Census.

Tim Swarens, a media specialist for the Census Bureau in Indiana, said parents may not even realize that their child should be included in the count.

"Let's say it's a newborn baby or a child that's not yet in school; sometimes people overlook that," he said. "Sometimes, it's because the child is living in more than one home. They spend part of the time with dad and part of the time with mom, and there's confusion about who should count the child -- and the child is left off the form."

Swarens said every person living in a household on April 1, 2020, should be included in that household's count. So far, Indiana's self-response rate is 38.5%, which is slightly higher than the national average.

Census data is used to provide Indiana about $18 billion a year from the 55 largest federal spending programs, and many state agencies also distribute funds based on the count. Deborah Stein, network director for the Partnership for America's Children, noted these are programs that give children their best start in life.

"If you want to make sure there's more funding for your schools and for all the services your child needs, make sure you count everybody from birth on in your household, whether you're related to them or not," she said, "because the consequences of missing a child last a decade, and that's most of their childhood."

Sarah Brannon, managing attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project, said the census has some of the strongest privacy protections in federal law, and noted that it doesn't include sensitive questions.

"Your Social Security number, your citizenship status -- those questions are not asked on the census," she said. "Your name, your age, the members of your household, and your race and ethnicity -- that's really all they're asking."

Census forms can be completed by mail, over the phone or online at 2020census.gov.

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN