The last six months have been filled with unprecedented national activity. We remain firmly in the grip of a global pandemic, we face ongoing civil unrest and our election season is quickly approaching. Another critical event is happening this year: the 2020 Census.
A Census may seem insignificant when compared to the other events of the year, but the results of the Census are critically important and will affect our daily lives for the next 10 years. As a pediatrician, I see how important the Census is for children. Everything from funding for schools to the state health insurance program to food assistance programs relies on the results of the Census for funding designation.
The results of the 2020 Census will impact today’s children for the majority of their childhood and adolescence and so I encourage every household to complete their Census form and ensure that every child in Connecticut is appropriately counted.
During the 2010 Census, nearly a million children were not counted. That meant that for an entire decade, schools and programs that serve child health and well-being were underfunded. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that young children (between the ages of birth to 4 years) were most likely to be missed. Children living with caregivers other than biological parents, children in the foster care system and children living with multiple caregivers were also missed in high numbers.
The undercount of children in the 2010 Census also showed stark socio-economic disparities: children living in lower-income households, the same households that would benefit from program funding, were far more likely to be uncounted. In Connecticut, 12% of children live with a caregiver that is not their biological parent and 28% of all children under the age of 5 live in a hard to count census tract. According to Census.gov, in 2018, there were greater than 29,000 children under the age of 18 in Hartford. For the 2010 Census, there was an estimated 7% undercount in the highest risk areas, which includes Hartford. That would mean there are actually 31,000 children under the age of 18 in Hartford. That’s 2,000 children who were not counted; 2,000 children who were not allocated appropriate resources.
As a pediatrician, I care about my patients’ overall health, including emotional and mental health. Ensuring that children have access to programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Birth to 3 and CHIP/Medicaid is one of the most important ways I can ensure that my patients can achieve their potential.
We all need to make sure we complete our Census forms and encourage our communities to complete their forms and ensure all children are appropriately counted so that we receive appropriate funding for crucial resources. Completing the Census has never been easier – for the first time the Census can be completed online at www.2020census.gov which includes a look-up option for the 12-digit Census ID based on home address.
In a year where many things are beyond our control, completing the 2020 Census is one thing we can do to make our communities stronger for the future.
Aseel Dabbagh, D.O., is a resident physician at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and the University of Connecticut School of Graduate Medical Education.