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For Immediate Release
January 16, 2019

CONTACT: Lana Lee, (973) 643-3876 (office) | (609) 651-5855 (cell)  | llee@acnj.org

Undercounting Kids in 2020 Census Will Shortchange NJ Billions in Federal Dollars

NEW BRUNSWICK - With nearly $23 billion in federal funding at stake for various programs such as Medicaid, SNAP, child care and Head Start, all children must be counted in the upcoming 2020 Census, according to Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ), which held a statewide forum today highlighting the undercount of young children. 

Nearly 150,000 kids in the Garden State under age 5 live in “hard-to-count” (HTC) areas where a low percentage of residents completed and returned their most recent Census questionnaire. That makes up 28 percent of the total child population under age 5 in the state.

“Roughly 5.2 percent of children under age 5 were undercounted in New Jersey in the 2010 Census. That equates to 27,000 kids, enough to fill 1,350 kindergarten classes or 540 school buses,” said ACNJ policy counsel Peter Chen. “Another undercount would leave an entire generation of New Jersey children shortchanged for a decade.”

The undercount of young kids is more than 7 percent in Atlantic, Mercer, Somerset, Passaic and Essex counties.

“Undercounted children are often those who need the most help; they are more likely to live in poverty, live in single-parent households or live in a household where no parent speaks English,” Chen said. “Young children also face unique obstacles to counting that were not the focus of prior Census outreach.”

“Roughly 85 percent of young children omitted in the 2010 Census lived in households that returned a Census questionnaire. That means, someone returned a Census form but left off the young child. A Census campaign focused on young children would require not only that the form be filled out and returned, but also that all people living in the household be counted.”

Statewide and local efforts are underway. On August 24, 2018, New Jersey passed legislation to establish its own statewide complete count commission to develop outreach strategies regarding the Census. The commission had its first meeting January 9, 2019.

“We as a state have the important task of ensuring an accurate, complete and fair count of all New Jersey residents in 2020. Should we have an undercount in New Jersey, the state as a whole will suffer,” said Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez (D-19), who is a member of New Jersey’s Census Complete Count Commission.

“The upcoming Census will be challenging, however with organizations like ACNJ leading the charge, I am confident we can count every individual in New Jersey. I am excited to join ACNJ at their Census conference and look forward to hearing from advocates on their census efforts.”


Advocates for Children of New Jersey is a statewide child research and action organization. ACNJ works with local, state and federal leaders to identify and implement changes that will benefit New Jersey’s children.



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