Happy Mother’s Day To New Mothers: Don’t Forget To Count Your Newborn In The Census

There will be about 1.4 million women who will be celebrating Mother’s Day as a new mother for the first time this year, based on fertility data in the United States from the past few years. Table 1 shows the distribution of new moms by race and Hispanic origin.

In addition to the 1.4 million first time moms, another 2.4 million women have had a birth in the past year, but they already had at least one other child. (Martin et al. 2019, Table 3). Studies done by the U.S. Census Bureau (2019) show newborns have an extremely high chance of being missed in the census.  Data from the 2010 census indicates that for children born in the year before the census date of April 1, 2010, the omission rate was over 10 percent; however, for children born in the three months prior to the census, the omission rate was more like 15 to 25 percent.

Many first-time mothers are relatively young.  Two-thirds of first births occurred to women under age 30.  That is important because younger adults are much less likely to respond to the census.

For anyone who has ever had a newborn at home, it is easy to understand why households with a young child might not respond to the census. Relative to completing the census form as a civic duty, Hillygus  et al. (2006, page 103)  conclude  that, “Respondents who are married with children have a lower mail-back rate (83 percent) than those who are married without children (90 percent), suggesting that the time demands of child care work against taking on this particular civic duty.”  This hypothesis is also supported by data (Letourneau 2012) that indicates single parents with children have much lower mail-back rates (63 percent) than either married-couples with children (83 percent) or singles living alone (86 percent) or with adult roommates (73 percent).

It is important that all households with a newborn make sure that every young child is included in the census. Census data are used to distribute about $1.5 trillion each year via formulas to states and localities.  This includes money for things like children’s health care, child care, Head Start, and other programs to ensure young children get off to a good start in life.  Communities where young children are undercounted do not get their fair share of these resources.

Table 1. Race and Hispanic Origin of First-time Moms in 2018
Number Percent
Total          1,433,915         100.0
Non-Hispanic White Alone              768,672           53.6
Non-Hispanic Black Alone              194,089           13.5
Non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaskan Native                  8,684             0.6
Non-Hispanic Asian Alone              109,429             7.6
Non-Hispanic Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander Alone                  2,791             0.2
Hispanic              303,049           21.1
Source: Martin, J.A., Hamilton, B E., Osterman, J.K, and Driscoll, A K (2019). Births: Final data from 2018, National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol 66, No. 13, National Center for Health Statistics, November 27.
Table does not include some births that occurred to multi-race women


Hillygus,  S. D., Nie, N. H., Prewitt, K. & Pals,, H.(2006), The Hard Count: The Political and Social Challenges of U.S. Decennial Census Mobilization,” Russell Sage Foundation, New York, NY Page 103

Letourneau, E. (2012). Mail Response/Return rates Assessment, 2010 Census Planning Memorandum Series, No. 198, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington DC.

Martin, J.A., Hamilton, B E., Osterman, J.K, and Driscoll, A K (2019). Births: Final data from 2018, National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol 66, No. 13, National Center for Health Statistics, November 27.

U.S. Census Bureau (2019).”Investigating the 2010 Undercount of Young Children—Net Census Coverage of Very Young Children,   Howard Hogan, issued January 15,  2020 Census Memorandum Series, https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial/2020/program-management/final-analysis-reports/2020-report-2010-undercount-children-net_census_coverage.pdf




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