2000 Census Continues 60-Year Trend of Undercounting Nation's Poorest Children

Contact: Catherine Herman (518) 437-4984

Two University at Albany sociologists have found concrete evidence that the nation's poorest children continue to be undercounted and underrepresented by the U.S. Census, with the 2000 Census continuing a 60-year trend.

Donald Hernandez and Nancy Denton, professors in the Department of Sociology and the Center for Social and Demographic Analysis at UAlbany, found that at least 532,769 and as many as 2,099,620 poor children were missed in the 1990 count. The study adds that poor children will be disproportionately missed again by the 2000 Census.

The findings are part of the researchers' recently completed study, "Will Poor Children Be Left Behind?" conducted for the U.S. Census Monitoring Board. The study is the first to quantify the number of undercounted children in poverty nationwide.

Although there may be an improved count in the 2000 census, minorities and children are still likely to have been disproportionately missed just as they have been since the undercount was first measured in 1940, according to the study.

Hernandez, who previously worked for the federal Census Bureau, said, "This work is important to public policy discussions about the needs of children because the poverty rate for children is higher than for any other group."

The study further suggests that decisions about required levels of funding for children could be adversely affected if corrected census data is not released in 2001. Children in poverty depend on federal programs that rely on census data; these programs include Medicaid, Head Start, Foster Care, Adoption Assistance, and Social Services Block Grants.

"If we are to combat child poverty, we must first ensure that every child is counted in the census," said Gilbert F. Casellas, presidential co-chair of the Monitoring Board. "This study shows children will suffer the most if they don't have the resources that an accurate and reliable census helps to ensure."

Denton added, "Research like this is particularly important because it demonstrates the concrete effects of what some see as an abstract statistical discussion or partisan political argument over adjusting the census."

Established in 1997, the bipartisan Census Monitoring Board monitors the Census Bureau's conduct of the 2000 Census and reports findings to Congress every six months. Hernandez and Denton were asked by the Board to produce an estimate of the number of poor children missed by the Census. The release of their study, which can be viewed in full at http://www.cmbp.gov, follows the Dec. 28 release of state population totals resulting from the 2000 count.

For more University at Albany information, visit our World Wide Web site at http://www.albany.edu.

March 1, 2001


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