Texas Kids at Risk of Undercount in 2020 Census

In Texas, 30 percent of kids younger than age 5 live in hard-to-count census tracts. These 582,000 children are at risk of being overlooked in the upcoming 2020 census. Photo: AECF

by Eric Galatas

AUSTIN, Texas – Texas ranks 43rd in child well-being – which makes it one of the ten worst states for kids, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book.

The report ranks states for indicators of health, education, economic well-being and family and community.

Kristie Tingle, research associate at the Center for Public Policy Priorities, noted the report contains a few bright spots, including a drop in the number of Texas children without health insurance.

But she said most of the research confirms that state leaders need to do more to help millions of children and parents, and that includes getting an accurate census count in 2020.

“When kids aren’t counted, Texas faces losing billions of dollars in federal support,” Tingle said. “That’s for things like education, school lunches, Head Start, Medicaid, SNAP and CHIP – things that give kids a really great opportunity at a healthy start in life.”

The report estimates more than 580,000 Texas children under age 5 are at risk of being overlooked because they live in hard-to-count census tracts.

In 2016, more than one in five Texas children lived in poverty, down a single percentage point from 2015. Tingle said despite some gains, Texas still lags behind other states, ranking 37th in child poverty and 48th in the percentage of children without health coverage.

Nationally, the report shows a rebounding economy has helped many families. Across the country, 1.6 million fewer kids are living in poverty, more parents have jobs, and fewer families are spending a disproportionate amount of their income on housing.

However, one in five children still lives in poverty, according to Laura Speer, AECF associate director for policy reform and advocacy.

“That means about 14 million children living in households that don’t have enough income, really, to get by,” Speer explained. “The trends are going in the right direction, but it’s still too many kids and their families who are struggling just to make ends meet.”

The problem of under-counting children under age 5 has gotten worse with every census since 1980, with 1 million kids missed in 2010.

To get a more accurate count, the report recommends the U.S. Census Bureau fully fund state and local outreach, and ramp up efforts to reach hard-to-count areas.

Speer also warned that participation rates could dramatically drop if the agency adds a question about U.S. citizenship, and said it’s critical that government officials guarantee that respondents’ information will be protected.

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