The 2020 Census & Undercounting Young Latino Children

Note: Please click here for more Texas-specific information and resources on the 2020 Census.

Very young children, ages 0-4, have historically been undercounted in past Censuses. In the 2010 Census, Texas missed seven percent of young Latino children—about 75,000—age four or younger. Based on the 2010 Census, Latino children are twice more likely to be undercounted than non-Hispanic White children. In 2010, 72 percent of the undercount of young Latino children in 2010 was concentrated among five states including Texas. And among Texas’ largest counties, Dallas and Harris County, the net undercount of young Latino children was some of the highest across the nation in 2010.

The National Latino Commission on Census 2020 recently held a regional hearing in San Antonio, Texas on Jan. 29. Members of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) gathered to hear from Texas advocates on challenges around the 2020 Census in Texas. CPPP provided testimony specifically on the critical need to count very young children, specifically Latino children in the 2020 Census.

Currently, 50 percent of children under five in Texas are Latino and the majority of Texas children live in metropolitan areas. Young children are more likely to be undercounted in metropolitan areas. Researchers estimate that 30 percent of children under five in Texas (around 582,000 children) are at high risk of being missed in the 2020 Census. Latino children are overrepresented in high-poverty neighborhoods in Texas, which is also a factor for being missed. Latino children living in mixed-status families may not be reported due to concerns about the safety of their immigrant relatives. Today, 2.8 million (25 percent) Texas children live in families with at least one non-citizen parent and even more live with immigrant family members.

Why are young Latino children missed in Texas?

Research shows the following may increase the chances of an undercount:

  • Children are more likely to be undercounted in metropolitan areas.
  • Children who live in households that rent rather than own their home. Renters are harder to count, in part because they move more often.
  • Children live with grandparents or family members other than parents or in a mutligenerational household.
  • Children are adopted or not the biological child of the home
  • Children live in low-income households. Latino children are overrepresented in high-poverty neighborhoods.
  • Children live in a household mixed status households with recent immigrants or foreign-born parents or relatives.

In preparation for 2020 Census, Texas needs state lawmakers, community leaders, and advocates working together to make sure young children are counted. Education and outreach with trusted messengers will be key this Census given the federal funding shortfalls, the new and minimally tested online format, and the citizenship question’s chill factor. One way to ensure children under five are counted is to form state or local Complete Count Committees that have subcommittees with a focus on increasing the count of very young children. CPPP is working to ensure either the Governor (through proclamation) or the state legislature establishes a Complete Count Committee.

Texas State Representative César Blanco has taken the lead on ensuring an accurate and fair Census count with his House Bill 255, a bill that seeks to create a statewide Complete Count Committee in the 86th legislative session.  Once established, CPPP will advocate for focused outreach and messaging to promote the counting of very young children. CPPP is also connecting with local communities on their Census efforts.

Across the state, localities range in their progress toward an accurate count, some areas like San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, El Paso, and the Rio Grande Valley have begun Census efforts, while others cities are just starting their Census efforts. 

In addition to outreach, funding from the state, local governments, local Chambers of Commerce, or philanthropy will be critical to ensure a complete and accurate count. Hard-to-count communities require additional direct outreach and targeted materials in languages households can understand.

The Fiscal Policy Institute estimates that dedicating $2 dollars per hard-to-count person would enable basic outreach such as public forms, information sharing, or some level of direct outreach. For example, there are almost 100,000 Latino Children under 5 living in Bexar county—we would need around $200,000 to conduct basic outreach for these children and their families.

Given the challenges this Census faces, it will be critical that government and philanthropy help fill this funding gap. Currently, CPPP and Texans Care for Children are collaborating on a grant to provide additional support in Texas. We plan to identify childcare centers in hard-to-count areas and then develop resources to share directly with families at early childhood centers to educate them on the importance of the Census and counting their very young children.

If Texas children aren’t counted, our state could lose billions in federal dollars over the next decade for programs that give children a healthy start in life, including dollars for education, school lunches, Head Start, Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, former “food stamps”), and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Every resident of Texas—including every child—has the right to be counted in the 2020 Census and represented in our democracy. Texas must commit to a robust 2020 Census plan that includes specific strategies for making sure every Texan is counted.

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