Call to Action

Libraries Working with Children Play an Important Role in 2020 Census

Census Day logo from #LibrariesTransform

The beginning of 2020 means one important milestone is on the horizon: we are just months away from Census Day.

Did you know children under age 5 were the most undercounted age group in the 2010 Census? More than 2 million estimated to have been missed. When young kids are missed in the Census, their communities lose needed funding for schools, libraries, children’s health insurance, and other critical programs.

The 2020 Census results will determine how more than $800 billion in federal funding is allocated each year to states and communities for programs like Head Start, WIC, and school lunch. And the effects of the 2020 Census will last for a decade. For young children, this is nearly their entire childhood.

Some communities are at greater risk of being undercounted. In the 2010 Census, for example, black and Hispanic young children were missed twice as often as non-Hispanic white young children. Children are more likely to be missed in the Census if:

  • They live in large and complex households (such as blended families, multi-family or multi-generational households).
  • They live with single parents or young parents between the ages of 18–29.
  • They are not the biological or adopted child of the householder.
  • They live with their grandparents, aunts or uncles, or other family members.
  • They live with adults who do not speak English well or their family includes immigrants.
  • They live in low-income families.
  • Their families rent rather than own their home.

Thankfully, school libraries can play important roles to help achieve an accurate and inclusive count of young kids. From informing the parents, guardians, and caregivers of young kids about the importance of counting young children, to delivering programming such as the Census Bureau’s Statistics in Schools curriculum, which offers lessons for pre-K through adult learners, school libraries have a chance to shape the lives of kids for the next 10 years.

Check out ALA’s new tip-sheet for all the ways school libraries can help count all kids in the Census 2020, and add your suggestions to the discussion online using the hashtag #CountOnLibraries.

GAVIN BAKER is deputy director for government relations at the American Library Association’s Public Policy & Advocacy Office, and can be reached at LARRA CLARK is deputy director of ALA Public Policy & Advocacy and deputy director of the Public Library Association, and can be reached at Visit for all of ALA’s tipsheets and resources related to the 2020 Census.

This post addresses ALSC Core Competency I. Commitment to Client Group.

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