BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER
Sarah Hughes, vice-president of research initiatives for the Colorado Children’s Campaign, spoke at a presentation hosted by the Arapahoe County Early Childhood Council (ACECC) on October 17 at the Koelbel Library in Centennial largely focused on the importance of accurately counting children in the 2020 United States Census.
Using data compiled by the Colorado Children’s Campaign (CCC), a non-partisan 501(c)(3) that is centered on public policies to benefit children in the areas of 1) early childhood education, 2) children’s health, including pregnancy outcomes, and 3) K-12 education, Hughes explained how children are undercounted and what it costs our community.
She pointed to a study by the CCC that says, “young children under age five are more likely to be missed by the census than any other age group, and children of color are at an even higher risk of being missed (than others under five).” They estimate that the 2010 Census failed to count 2 million children under age five nationwide. In Colorado, CCC believes that 18,000 children under five were missed in the 2010 Census, representing five percent of that age group statewide. Multiple reasons account for this problem. Poor children are often not counted because families living in poverty tend to move around and are harder to reach. Some children live in complex households, where they move between parents or stay with grandparents or other family members.
One in four children in Colorado live in a family where at least one parent is an immigrant and 40 percent live with a parent who is not a U.S. citizen. These factors often result in census forms not being filled out for the entire household.
Undercounting results in Colorado receiving fewer federal funds for children’s programs like the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. In the same report, CCC said that “in fiscal year 2015, census data guided more than $2 billion in federal funding to Colorado communities for ten large federal programs that support kids and families.” The practical result of undercounting in 2020 is that affected communities will not get the amount of federal resources that they need and are intended to receive for the next ten years, i.e., until a new census is done in 2030.
In Arapahoe County, as a result of the robust economy and low unemployment, the number of children living in poverty dropped from 16 percent in 2007 to 9 percent in 2017. Statewide, the percentage of children living in poverty, defined by the federal government in 2017 as earning less than $24,600 for a family of four, is directly related to their race and/or ethnicity. While only 7 percent of Colorado white and Asian children were living in poverty in 2017, 20 percent of children who were Hispanic or Latino and 17 percent of African-American children were living in poverty. Making matters worse, Hughes showed a calculation of the cost of living in Arapahoe County for a family of four to be self-sufficient. It was $75,276. Although that number varies around the state, it demonstrates that the methodology for calculating poverty level income, devised in the 1960’s, is outmoded and inaccurate.
The best news for children came in the area of health insurance coverage. In 2008, 14 percent of Colorado children were uninsured. By 2017, as a result of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), only 4.5 percent of those under the age of 18 didn’t have health insurance. In Arapahoe County, the uninsured rate for children dropped from 13 percent in 2008 to 4 percent in 2017.
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