What Should My State or Community Do Right Now to Improve the Count of Young Children?

Deborah Stein

What Should My State or Community Do Right Now to Improve the Count of Young Children?

The U.S. Census Bureau conducts a census every ten years to determine the number of people living in the United States. The results are used to determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives, and to allocate funding for federal and state programs.  Young children are historically undercounted – and Census 2020 could miss as many as two million young children in America. It’s not too late to fix this.

Right now, the most important thing your state or locality can do to address the undercount of young children is to set up a Complete Count Committee, fund it, and include in its mission addressing the undercount of young children.

What is a Complete Count Committee? It’s a state or local group focused on getting out the count (GOTC) in the 2020 Census. These Complete Count Committees can set up by the government and created by elected leaders at the state, city or county levels. They also can be set up by community members such as nonprofits, businesses and foundations.

Complete Count Committees all have the same goals, including:

  • Researching the most important areas for Census outreach in their community;
  • Identifying particular needs and barriers that have to be addressed to make sure all children and adults in their communities are counted in the 2020 Census, as well as strategies to address those needs and barriers;
  • Designing systems, strategies, activities and ideas that can make it easier for people to fill out the Census, and
  • Creating and implementing strategies for persuading adults to fill out the census and to count children.

Committee members can include, but are not limited to: government officials; tribal representatives; representatives from the early childhood community, k-12 schools and universities; business and regional associations; media; representatives of faith communities; libraries; the extension office; the health department; clinics and hospitals; community organizations; social service providers; nonprofits; and foundations. (Tribes often have their own Complete Count Committees too.)

Really, anyone who would be important in your state or community for helping to educate people about the importance of the census and the need to fill it out in 2020 should be considered as a potential member of the committee.

If your state or community doesn’t have a Complete Count Committee, now is the time to start advocating for or organizing one.

The most important thing right now is to help set up your state or community’s Complete Count Committee, because planning and funding for efforts around the Census will take time. For example, if your state doesn’t already have a Complete Count Committee, your state legislature should be passing and funding one next year during the 2019 legislative sessions; 2020 legislative sessions will be too late.

To learn more about Complete Count Committees, check out the Census Bureau’s guide to forming Complete Count Committees, available here.

To find out if your state or community already has a Complete Count Committee visit the National Conference of State Legislatures Complete Count Committees tracking page here.

The Center for Public Policy Priorities’ State by State Census Outreach tracker also shows what states have considered Complete Committees, how much funding they have, and what they are charged with doing. You can find it at CountAllKids.org.

Bottom line: if your state or community doesn’t have a Complete Count Committee, now is the time to start advocating for or organizing one!

If it does have a Complete Count Committee, the next step is to make sure the committee members understand that many more young children were missed in 2010 than any other age group,  that they are missed for different reasons than adults, and that counting all kids will take different strategies.

See our blog next week to learn more about why counting all kids requires different approaches than counting all adults.