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SD's Birth Rate Underscores Calls to Count All Kids in Census


Wednesday, June 24, 2020   

BROOKINGS, S.D. -- A common theme for the 2020 census is making sure all young children are counted. That's been an issue in previous counts, and South Dakota officials say the state's high fertility rate is one important reason an accurate count is needed.

An estimated 1 million children younger than age five were missed nationwide in the 2010 census count, including nearly 380 in South Dakota. State demographer Weiwei Zhang said she worries that number will be higher this time around.

"South Dakota has the highest fertility rate," she said. "That means if our population grows, right, the children part of our population [will] grow faster."

Zhang referred to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that said South Dakota is among the only states that have a fertility rate considered necessary to replace a population over time. She said other factors -- in South Dakota and elsewhere -- can affect the census count, including multiple families living in one home, or children living with grandparents. Those often are cited as reasons why young kids aren't included in the census.

Researchers have said the undercount is a bigger problem for children of color. Zhang added that in the Dakota region, the problem persists in Native American tribes.

"American Indians that live on a reservation, they have high rates of undercount," she said.

Nationwide, Native American families were undercounted by a rate of nearly 5% in the 2010 census. Groups calling for a more accurate count have said the federal funding that would be lost can affect a wide range of programs, including early-childhood education.

Information on census undercount is online at census.gov, and fertility data is at cdc.gov.

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