Young children at risk of undercount in 2020 Census


Census materials have begun arriving at homes throughout Minnesota, and advocates are sending a simple message: count all babies and children to make sure adequate resources are available to meet their needs.

In Minnesota and across the U.S., babies and young children are considered at very high risk of being missed.

For every child that isn’t counted in the 2020 Census, the state could lose out on its share of federal funding for programs that support children and their families over the next 10 years.

“Children are one of the largest groups of undercounted individuals in the census, and the impact of being left out of the count is felt throughout their childhood in the form of missed funding for education, food support and health care, but also investments in the communities where they live,” said Bharti Wahi, Children’s Defense Fund executive director. “We must work hard so that every child is counted in the 2020 Census, and make sure that this data informs investments in equitable programs and policies. Census data is crucial in understanding how all children in Minnesota are doing, and it helps reveal deep-rooted disparities in outcomes that persist for children of color and American Indian children, the natural consequence of systems and structures built and maintained without an emphasis on racial and ethnic equity. We continue to press for a deeper understanding of the needs of all Minnesota’s children, and the development of more culturally relevant programs and more equitable policies to address these gaps in outcomes.”

Liz Kuoppala, executive director of MAHUBE-OTWA Community Action Partnership, said, “Every single person in our region counts and must be counted in the census. This year’s Census will shape our region’s planning and funding for the next decade. We are getting off to a slow start. While the statewide response rate, to date, is 42%, Mahnomen County is at 2%; Hubbard County 25%; Becker County 28%; Otter Tail County at 33%; and Wadena County at 42%.”


Census figures will determine how the government spends $800 billion in federal funding, and over $15 billion in Minnesota.

The 2010 Census missed more than two million children under 5, costing states $550 million per year in lost federal funding for dozens of programs, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicaid, foster care, adoption and child care services. On average schools lost $1,695 per year for every school-aged child missed.

The number of young children missed could double in 2020, according to the Partnership for America’s Children, based on survey results that found 10% of 800 families making less than $50,000 per year said they would not count their babies, toddlers or preschoolers. Another 8 percent were uncertain about whether to count them.

New research has shown that young children are more likely to be missed in a census if:

  • They live with single parents or young parents between the ages of 18-29.

  • They are not the biological or adopted child of the householder.

  • They live with their grandparents, aunts and uncles, or other family members.

  • They live in families that do not speak English or their family includes immigrants.

  • They live in families with low incomes.

  • Their families rent rather than own their home.

How should babies and children be counted?

  • Count children in the home where they live and sleep most of the time, even if their parents do not live there.

  • If you've just had a baby, and your baby is still in the hospital on Census Day (April 1), then count your baby at the home where he or she will live and sleep most of the time.

  • If children spend time in more than one home, count them where they stay most often. If their time is evenly divided, or if you do not know where they stay most often, count them where they are staying on April 1.

  • If a friend's or family member's child is staying with you (with or without the parent), and the child does not have a permanent place to live, count the child if he or she is staying with you on April 1, even if it's only temporary.

For more information, visit or

What To Read Next
Get Local