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Early-Childhood Funding Vital in Counting All WI Kids

Census officials say undercounting of young children has been an issue for decades, and fear it could be a bigger problem for the 2020 count. (Adobe Stock)
Census officials say undercounting of young children has been an issue for decades, and fear it could be a bigger problem for the 2020 count. (Adobe Stock)
June 15, 2020

MADISON, Wis. -- Outreach groups for the 2020 census count say Wisconsin relies heavily on federal funding for early-childhood education. They say it's one of many reasons why the state can't let young children go uncounted.

An estimated 1 million kids under the age of 5 were not counted nationwide in the 2010 census. Studies show it's a larger problem in communities of color.

Deborah Stein, network director at the Partnership for America's Children, said the impact varies by state.

"Most of these are pretty diverse states in terms of race and ethnicity, but they definitely have very different factors for what puts them at risk of missing a lot of kids," Stein said. "Some have very large black populations, but not particularly high Hispanic populations. Some of them have lots of immigrants. Others don't."

Some of the underlying factors include fears of citizenship status and multiple families living under one roof.

In Wisconsin, it's estimated that more than 3,000 young kids weren't included in the 2010 census. According to one key research group, the Badger State ranks 32nd in the nation in state funding for early-childhood education. Advocates say an undercount could erode the federal grants that prop up Wisconsin's program.

Kids Forward executive director Ken Taylor said at a time when many families are losing jobs and health care coverage, it's important to ensure federal funding is maintained for other key programs.

"For low-income families, health care through Badger Care is incredibly important," Taylor said. "And so we need to know the number of people that we have here so that we can make sure that we continue to drive down the uninsured rate."

Wisconsin receives about $9 billion in federal funding each year. And Taylor said a lot of that money goes toward health, foster care and child care.

Disclosure: Annie E Casey Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Criminal Justice, Early Childhood Education, Education, Juvenile Justice, Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mike Moen, Public News Service - WI