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by Rob Thompson

The KIDS COUNT Data Book, released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, shows that a stronger economy is producing better outcomes for parents and their kids. Federally-funded supports such as SNAP, Head Start, CHIP, and school lunches are helping drive child success. But those positive outcomes are in jeopardy as 73,000 North Carolina children are at risk of not being counted in the upcoming 2020 census.

The economic recovery has not made its way to areas of concentrated poverty where North Carolina children are at highest risk of negative outcomes, from poorer health to lower graduation rates. Unfortunately, it is precisely these areas that stand to lose the most in the event of a census undercount. The percentage of North Carolina children living in poverty has dropped from a high of 26 percent in 2011 to 22 percent in 2016, according to the Data Book. Nonetheless, in 2016, 13 percent of kids lived in a high-poverty neighborhood, a slight increase since 2012.

The upcoming 2020 Census is a critical tool for ensuring accurate allocation of infrastructure and funding.  The potential undercount of young children, particularly children of color, could threaten hundreds of millions in federal funding for children’s health, education, and safety.

In North Carolina, the undercount of children in the 2000 census led to inadequate funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). As a result, eligible children were put on a waiting list and went uninsured until additional funding was secured.

Several factors affect the accuracy of the census count. NC Child offers the following recommendations to achieve a full count of North Carolina children:

  • Keep the untested citizenship question off 2020 Census questionnaires: A question about citizenship will only play on fears in the immigrant community, driving the count further downward. Read our recent blog on this subject.  
  • Maximize the Census Bureau’s capacity: Members of North Carolina’s Congressional delegation should support the full funding of all aspects of the census, including robust outreach, and a qualified permanent Census director.
  • Fund state and local outreach: The state of North Carolina should appropriate at least $1,000,000 for FY 2019-2020 to support educational outreach to ensure an accurate count. This would include much needed support for state and local Complete Count Committees.
  • Expand the pool of trusted messengers: Broaden the circle of people and organizations who can provide outreach in their communities – child care providers, clergy, schools and libraries. Trusted messengers encourage participation among people most likely to be missed.
  • Address the digital divide: Provide online access for all families to participate in the census, either in local libraries or schools. Many low-income and rural communities across North Carolina still lack access to broadband internet.  
  • Address privacy and confidentiality concerns: Given the growing distrust and fear of online data breaches, it is critical that government officials ensure the protection of respondents’ data.

How to get the 2018 KIDS COUNT® Data Book

The 2018 KIDS COUNT® Data Book is available at www.aecf.org/databook, which also contains the most recent national, state and local data on hundreds of indicators of child well-being. Journalists interested in creating maps, graphs and rankings in stories about the Data Book can use the KIDS COUNT Data Center at datacenter.kidscount.org.

Support NC Child’s work to ensure economic opportunity for all NC families. Click here to make a donation today.

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