LATINO PERSPECTIVE-Carol Emig who is president of Child Trends, a nonpartisan research organization and Arturo Vargas, the executive director of NALEO Educational Fund, have found that the 2010 Census missed some 400,000 young Latino children — the equivalent of more than half a congressional district. The data — a comparison of census records with county birth, death and immigration records — indicate that the 2010 undercount rate for young Latinos was 7.1%, compared to 4.3% for non-Latinos. The shortfall was pronounced in specific counties in five states: California, Texas, Arizona, Florida and New York.
California accounted for more than a quarter of young Latino children who were not counted. An estimated 47,000 Latino children under age 5 were missed in Los Angeles County alone, by far the biggest undercount of any county in the United States.
According to an Op-Ed that Emig and Vargas wrote in the Los Angeles Times this past Sunday, U.S. Census Bureau data are used to allocate more than $400 billion in federal funds to states and counties for transportation, public health, early childhood programs and other essential services. And young Latino children — who represent one-quarter of all U.S. children under 5, and whose numbers are growing — need these services most of all, since nearly two-thirds of them live in or near poverty. The census count also determines each state's congressional representation. An accurate census is essential to the fair distribution of national resources and to the very life of our democracy.
They explained that many California families struggle to afford child care in a state where the average annual cost of center-based infant care was $11,600 in 2013 (the latest year available.) That's more than 40% of the median income for single-parent families.
The federal Child Care and Development Block Grant allocates funds to help states subsidize child care for low-income families. How is the amount of the block grant determined? By the census count of children under age 5.
In California's case, the thousands of missing Latino children means that every year, California received less than its fair share of Child Care and Development Block Grant funds. This is why it’s so important to have an accurate count.
The Census Bureau does an important job of counting the country's residents every 10 years and paints a generally accurate picture of the total population. The next census, in 2020, will be the first to count people online, but technology alone can't fix the particular undercount of Latino children.
I think we can all agree with Emig and Vargas when they argue that undoing the Census' Latino undercount requires quick action — the 2020 census is around the corner — as well as adequate funding for research and education from Congress and private groups. It isn't only a matter of helping one group of children and their families.
When Latino children are undercounted, they are shortchanged, but so is every other U.S. resident. The undercount can be remedied in time for the next census, if we act now. Hopefully by the next five Cinqo de Mayos everyone will be in the books.
(Fred Mariscal came to Los Angeles from Mexico City in 1992 to study at the University of Southern California and has been in LA ever since. He is a community leader who serves as Vice Chair of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition and sits on the board of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council representing Larchmont Village. He was a candidate for Los Angeles City Council in District 4. Fred writes Latino Perspective for CityWatch and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.) Photo: LA Times. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.